Myanmar judge to decide next week if Reuters pair will face trial

Yangon (AFP) –


Two Reuters reporters accused of breaching a draconian secrecy law in Myanmar will find out next week whether they will face a full trial, after lawyers delivered closing statements on Monday.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are accused of breaching the Official Secrets Act -- which carries up to 14 years in jail -- during their reporting of a military crackdown on the Rohingya minority.

The pair have been held in custody for more than six months in a protracted case that has been pilloried by rights groups and foreign observers as an assault on media freedom.

The Myanmar nationals were arrested in December and accused of possession of sensitive material linked to security operations in crisis-hit Rakhine state.

"Next week on July 9 the court will decide whether to charge or not," Judge Ye Lwin told the Yangon court after hearing the closing arguments.

Lawyers for the reporters say they were entrapped by police -- a version of events endorsed in court by a whistleblowing cop who testified that officers were ordered to set up the reporters.

The pair had been investigating a massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslims at Inn Din village in Rakhine state during last year's military-led crackdown on Rohingya militants.

Army operations forced more than 700,000 of the minority, who are denied citizenship in Myanmar, to flee to Bangladesh.

The military has admitted security forces were involved in a massacre at the site, but vehemently denies allegations it launched a wider campaign of atrocities, including rape and murder.

The UN and the US says the crackdown on the Rohingya was tantamount to ethnic cleansing.

A handcuffed Wa Lone expressed hope for a "fair" ruling next week.

"We reported Rakhine news and we needed to contact the police officers to get information... we are not traitors," he said as he left the court.