On Monday, the verdict on the case of two Reuters journalists, Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, was given at Yangon’s Northern District Court. After almost nine months of being shuffled back and forth between prison and the courtroom, the pair was found guilty of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act and each sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. The Irrawaddy looks back at the major developments in the case since they were arrested on Dec. 12.
Dec. 12, 2017: Two Reuters journalists, Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, are arrested in northern Yangon at around 9 p.m.
Dec. 12, 2017: At around 10 p.m., northern district police chief Lt-Col Yu Naing seeks permission from the President’s Office to prosecute the journalists under the Official Secrets Act.
Dec. 13, 2017: Acting President U Myint Swe grants Lt-Col Yu Naing authority to prosecute Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo under the Official Secrets Act. The same day, the two journalists are sent to the Aung Tha Pyae Interrogation Center. They are to remain there until Dec. 26.
Dec. 14, 2017: The government announces the arrest in state-run newspapers, saying the two journalists will be prosecuted for violating the Official Secrets Act for possessing important and secret government documents relating to Rakhine State and security forces. The Information Ministry says they had “illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media.” The announcement says the two police officers, Capt. Moe Yan Naing and Sgt. Khin Maung Lin, will be charged with the Official Secrets Act and the Police Disciplinary Act for their interaction with the journalists.
Dec. 27, 2017: The two journalists are brought to court for the first time to have their detention for interrogation extended by another 14 days and to allow them to meet their families and a lawyer.
Jan. 8, 2018: Home Affairs Minister Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe approves an order to prosecute the journalists under Article 3 (1) ( c ) of the Official Secrets Act. The article says: “If any person for any purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State…obtains, collects, records or publishes or communicates to any other person any secret official code or password, or any sketch, plan, model, article or note or other document or information which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be, directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy; he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend, where the offence is committed in relation to any work of defense, arsenal, naval, military or air force establishment or station, mine, minefield, factory, dockyard, camp, ship or aircraft or otherwise in relation to the naval, military or air force affairs of [the State] or in relation to any secret official code, to fourteen years and in other cases to three years.”
Jan. 10, 2018: Prosecutors ask the court that Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo be charged under the Official Secrets Act.
Jan. 23, 2018: Lt-Col Yu Naing tells the court that Capt. Moe Yan Naing and Sgt. Khin Maung Lin were not detained in his district.
Feb. 6, 2018: A prosecution witness who was part of the police team that arrested the journalists, 2nd Lt. Tin Htwe Oo, tells the court that he had burned the notes he made at the time but offers no explanation as to why.
Feb. 14, 2018: Another prosecution witness who was also part of the arrest team, 2nd Lt. Myo Ko Ko, tells the court he was not familiar with police procedures for recording arrests. When asked where the arrests took place, he says it was on a street lined with factories. His answer contradicts a map, previously produced by police and submitted to the court, that shows stores and tea shops but no factories.
March 28, 2018: Defense lawyer U Khin Maung Zaw submits a request to have the case dismissed on grounds of insufficient evidence.
Apr. 11, 2018: Judge Ye Lwin rejects the defense’s request to have the case dismissed, stating that there is “a proper reason” for the accusations against the two reporters and that “they should not be released.”
Apr. 20, 2018: As a prosecution witness, Capt. Moe Yan Naing tells the court that police Brig-Gen Tin Ko Ko ordered officers to “trap” the Reuters reporters arrested in December, instructing them to meet the journalists at a restaurant and give them “secret documents.”
Apr. 23, 2018: The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission sends the Ministry of Home Affairs a letter urging it to ensure that Capt. Moe Yan Naing’s rights are not violated.
Jul. 9, 2018: Yangon district judge U Ye Lwin charges Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo with breaching the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. Both journalists plead “not guilty” to the charges, telling the judge they “followed journalistic ethics”.
Jul. 16-24, 2018: Both Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo testify about their arrest and police interrogations.
Aug. 20, 2018: Yangon district judge U Ye Lwin announces he will deliver his verdict on Aug. 27.
Aug. 27, 2018: The verdict is postponed to Sep. 3 due to the judge’s ill health.
Sept. 3, 2018: Both Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for breaching the Official Secrets Act. Their lawyer said they will apply to the upper court for appeal.