Press Freedom

Myanmar jails police officer for testifying in favour of Reuters journalists

The Myanmar policeman who corroborated reporters’ account of controversial arrests has been sentenced to an undisclosed prison sentence

April 30, 2018
Myanmar jails police officer for testifying in favour of Reuters journalists
Prosecution witness police captain Moe Yan Naing sits outside the court in Yangon, Myanmar Photo: Nyein Chan Naing / EPA-EFE

The Myanmar policeman who recently testified in court that police had framed two jailed Reuters journalists has been sentenced to an undisclosed prison sentence for violating Myanmar’s Police Disciplinary Act, a police spokesman told Reuters on Sunday.

Captain Moe Yan Naing told a Yangon court on 20 April that a Myanmar police chief ordered officers to “trap” the Reuters reporter Wa Lone by luring him to a restaurant to give him secret documents.

“Police Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko gave the documents to Police Lance Corporal Naing Lin and told him to give them to Wa Lone and said that when Wa Lone comes out of the restaurant, the Htaunt Kyant regional police force has to entrap him and arrest him,” Reuters reported Moe Yan Naing telling the court on 20 April.

“Police Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko told the police members, ‘if you don’t get Wa Lone, you will go to jail’”.
After the hearing, Reuters president and editor in chief Stephen Adler said in a statement that the case should be stopped immediately.

“Today the court finally heard the truth. One of the prosecution’s own witnesses admitted that the police received orders to plant evidence and arrest Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo on false charges,” he said. “This case cannot be squared with fairness or justice, and it’s time to bring it to an end.”

Wa Lone and his colleague who accompanied him to the restaurant, Kyaw Soe Oo, were arrested in December for illegally possessing secret government documents. The two reporters are currently being held under Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years.

At the time of their arrest, the pair were reporting on the brutal murder of 10 Rohingya Muslim men in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine State, which many have pointed to as evidence that the case against them is politically motivated.
Since being taken into police custody, the two reporters have consistently maintained that they were set up by police officers, an account of events that Moe Yan Naing’s testimony appears to support.

In November, Wa Lone had interviewed Moe Yan Naing about police operations in Rakhine State, something that the paramilitary 8th Security Police Battalion considered unacceptable, according to Moe Yan Naing, who told the court that he was arrested by police the same day that they arrested the Reuters journalists.

On Sunday, police spokesman Colonel Myo Thu Soe confirmed to Reuters that Moe Yan Naing had been “punished” and “sent to prison” for his testimony, which he said violated the country’s Police Disciplinary Act. 
Less than 24 hours after Moe Yan Naing gave his testimony, his wife and children were evicted from their home in police housing in Naypyitaw. Police have denied the two events were connected, but have yet to provide further details on the matter.

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