Myanmar police witness says searched Reuters reporters’ phones without warrant

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YANGON (Reuters) – Police in Myanmar examined the cellphones of two Reuters reporters accused of possessing secret paperwork with no search warrant after their arrests in December, an officer instructed a courtroom on Monday, in what has change into a landmark press freedom case.

Detained Reuters journalist Wa Lone leaves escorted by police after a courtroom listening to in Yangon, Myanmar Might 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ann Wang

Prosecution witness Main Aung Kyaw San stated police didn’t have a warrant to look the telephones as a result of the reporters have been accused below the Official Secrets and techniques Act, which gave officers the ability to make arrests and start an investigation while not having prior permission from a courtroom.

That assertion was disputed by protection lawyer Khin Maung Zaw, who instructed Reuters after the listening to that solely the arrests have been allowed earlier than looking for the approval of a choose. “This isn’t acceptable,” he stated. “Concerning (acquiring) proof, a warrant is required.”

(Observe newest updates on detained reporters here)

Lead prosecutor Kyaw Min Aung declined to remark.

Myanmar authorities spokesman Zaw Htay was not instantly obtainable for remark. Beforehand, he has declined to debate particulars of the proceedings or the police investigation, saying Myanmar’s courts have been unbiased.

The courtroom in Yangon has been holding hearings since January to determine whether or not Wa Lone, 32, and his Reuters colleague Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, can be charged below the colonial-era Official Secrets and techniques Act, which carries a most penalty of 14 years in jail.

Decide Ye Lwin final week accepted as proof printed copies of paperwork that Main Aung Kyaw San, a police IT skilled, stated have been discovered on the reporters’ telephones. The paperwork included alleged confidential authorities letters and plans for the event of an island off Myanmar’s west coast for tourism.

Protection legal professionals had argued the paperwork shouldn’t be admitted as proof as a result of it was unclear who had entry to the telephones after the reporters’ arrests on Dec. 12, and that the prosecution didn’t clarify how the 21 paperwork have been related to the case.

A few of the paperwork got here from the Fb Messenger app, the protection stated, and it was not clear the reporters themselves had accessed them.

Detained Reuters journalist Kyaw Soe Oo arrives escorted by police earlier than a courtroom listening to in Yangon, Myanmar Might 28, 2018. REUTERS/Ann Wang

“We don’t know something concerning the paperwork they stated they present in our telephones,” Wa Lone instructed reporters after Monday’s listening to. “The paperwork might be despatched routinely to Messenger.”

On the time of their arrests, the reporters had been engaged on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim males and boys in a village in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The killings occurred throughout a army crackdown that United Nations companies say despatched practically 700,000 individuals fleeing to Bangladesh.

The reporters have instructed kin they have been arrested nearly instantly after being handed some rolled up papers at a restaurant in northern Yangon by two policemen that they had not met earlier than, having been invited to satisfy the officers for dinner.

Final month, Police Captain Moe Yan Naing testified {that a} senior officer had ordered his subordinates to plant secret paperwork on Wa Lone to “lure” the reporter.

At a information convention on Might 15, Police Director Basic Aung Win Oo dismissed the testimony as untruthful.

After his courtroom look, Moe Yan Naing was sentenced to a yr in jail for violating police self-discipline and his household was evicted from police housing. Police have stated the eviction and his sentencing weren’t associated to his testimony, however have declined to elaborate additional.

World advocates for press freedom, human rights activists, as effectively the United Nations and several other Western international locations, have referred to as for the discharge of the Reuters journalists.

On Monday, diplomats from France, Denmark and the European Union – in addition to others – noticed the proceedings.

The subsequent listening to within the case is scheduled for Tuesday.

Reporting By Sam Aung Moon and Yimou Lee; Modifying by Alex Richardson

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