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A court in Myanmar has rejected a motion to dismiss a case against 2 Reuters journalists charged with obtaining secret government documents.

Wa Lone, who's celebrating his 32nd birthday behind bars today, and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested last December while investigating the then-rumoured massacre of Rohingya Muslims in north-western Rakhine state and face charges of possessing secret government papers.

Seven Myanmar soldiers have been sentenced to jail with hard labour for their part in the killings, according to a Facebook post by the army chief late Tuesday. They also pointed out inconsistencies in the witnesses' testimonies and procedural violations made by police during the reporters' arrest. They are languishing behind bars simply due to their peaceful journalism and investigating the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people by Myanmar's own security forces in Rakhine State.

The military admitted that the atrocity took place and Reuters later published the story while the reporters were in prison. If convicted, the charge carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Detained Reuters journalist Wa Lone (C) is escorted by police as he talks to media while leaving after his trial at the court house in Yangon, Myanmar, 11 April 2018.

"For the military personnel under the Military Act 71, four military personnel and three soldiers will be sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labor and to be permanently expelled from the army", the statement said.

Wa Lone's wife Pan Ei Mon, who is pregnant with their first child, broke down in tears after the hearing, telling journalists, "Wa Lone told me "not to expect too much" but I'm always expecting as his wife".

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One of his lawyers Than Zaw Aung also compared the cases.

He added: "We believe that there are solid grounds for the court to dismiss this matter and to release our journalists".

Win Myat Aye, Myanmar's minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement, will speak with some of the roughly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims the United Nations and aid groups say fled a military crackdown in their Buddhist-majority country since last August.

Another witness said he had signed the search form recording the reporters' arrests before the items seized from them had been filled in.

Condemnation of Wednesday's ruling by the presiding magistrate Ye Lwin came predictably from Reuters, which has been a vocal supporter of its local reporters as the case has proceeded. "We will continue to do all we can to secure their release".

"They have not violated any laws in the course of their newsgathering and were simply doing their jobs".


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