Amal Clooney to work on behalf of jailed journalists in Myanmar
The journalists had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of several Rohingya men
Prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has joined the legal team representing two Reuters reporters jailed in Myanmar who are accused of possessing secret government papers, her office said on Thursday.
A court in Yangon has been holding preliminary hearings since January to decide whether Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, will be charged under the colonial-era Officials Secrets Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
Lawyers for the two reporters on Wednesday asked the court to throw out the case, saying there was insufficient evidence to support charges against the pair.
"Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are being prosecuted simply because they reported the news. I have reviewed the case file and it is clear beyond doubt that the two journalists are innocent and should be released immediately," Amal Clooney was quoted as saying in a statement released by her office.
"The outcome of this case will tell us a lot about Myanmar's commitment to the rule of law and freedom of speech," said Clooney, who is married to actor George Clooney.
Myanmar's ambassador to the United Nations, Hau Do Suan, said last month that the Reuters journalists were not arrested for reporting a story but were accused of "illegally possessing confidential government documents."
Gail Gove, chief counsel of Reuters, said retaining Clooney would strengthen the company's international legal expertise and broaden efforts to secure the release of the reporters. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been in custody since their arrest on Dec. 12.
The pair have told relatives they were arrested almost immediately after being handed some rolled up papers at a restaurant in northern Yangon by two policemen they had not met before, having been invited to meet the officers for dinner.