Celebrity human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has joined the legal team representing two jailed Reuters reporters accused of possessing secret government documents, according to the Irrawaddy News Online on Friday (March 30).
“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soi 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 to have said in a statement released by her office.
She added that the outcome of the case would tell about Myanmar’s commitment to the rule of law and freedom of speech.
Gail Gove, chief counsel of Reuters, said retaining Clooney would strengthen the company’s international legal expertise and broader efforts to secure the release of the two reporters.
The court in Yangon has been holding preliminary hearings since January to decide whether the two Reuters journalists will be charged under the colonial-era Official Secret Act, which carries a maximum 14 years jailterm.
On Wednesday (March 28), the lawyers of the two journalists asked the court to throw out the case, claiming that there was insufficient evidence to back up the charges against them.
Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations, Hau Do Suan, said last month that the two Reuters journalists were not arrested because of their story, but were accused of illegally possessing confidential government documents.
However, the two reporters claimed 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.
The two Reuters reporters were arrested on Dec 12 after accepting an invitation from police to have dinner on Yangon’s outskirts. They had been covering crisis in Rakhine state.