YANGON (Reuters) – Two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, have been detained in Myanmar since Dec. 12, 2017. At the time of their arrests, they had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in Rakhine state.
After eight months of hearings, a court is set to decide on Monday whether or not to convict the reporters under the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
The following are key events in the case:
Dec. 12-13, 2017
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are arrested in Yangon after being invited to meet police at a restaurant.
The government says they face charges under the Official Secrets Act.
The two reporters are held incommunicado at a secret interrogation camp for the next two weeks.
Dec. 18, 2017
Myanmar’s military says it has discovered a mass grave in the village of Inn Din, in western Rakhine state.
Dec. 27, 2017
The reporters appear in court and are remanded to custody. Their families say the pair told them they were arrested almost immediately after being handed documents by the policemen they met for the first time the night of their arrest.
Jan. 10, 2018
Pre-trial hearings begin, with prosecutors seeking charges against the journalists under the Official Secrets Act.
On the same day, the military says its soldiers murdered 10 captured Muslims, whose bodies were those discovered by security forces in the mass grave in Rakhine, during insurgent attacks.
Feb. 1, 2018
A police witness, Major Min Thant, says under cross-examination that information in the documents the reporters were holding in their hands at the time of their arrest had already been published in newspaper reports.
The court denies a request for bail.
Feb. 6, 2018
Police witness Second Lieutenant Tin Htwe Oo, who testifies that he was part of the arrest team, says he burned the notes he made at the time, but gives no reason why.
Feb. 8, 2018
Reuters publishes the investigation that the reporters had been working on. It describes how security forces and local Rakhine Buddhists were involved in the killing of the 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys buried in the mass grave at Inn Din.
Feb. 11, 2018
Myanmar says action will be taken against members of its security forces in connection with the killings at Inn Din, but says it is not related to the Reuters report.
Feb. 28, 2018
A civilian witness for the prosecution reads from notes on his hand when asked about the location of the journalists’ arrests. When challenged he says he wrote on his hand to jog his memory while testifying because he is forgetful.
March 7, 2018
A police officer who took part in a post-arrest search of Wa Lone’s family home testifies that officers were looking for material “related to news”.
March 28, 2018
Lawyers for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo ask the court to throw out the case, saying there is insufficient evidence to support charges against the pair.
March 29, 2018
Prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney joins the legal team representing the two Reuters reporters. “Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are being prosecuted simply because they reported the news,” Clooney says in a statement.
April 20, 2018
Prosecution witness Police Captain Moe Yan Naing tells the court that a police brigadier general had given orders to entrap Wa Lone by giving him “secret documents” and then arresting him. Prosecutors later argued that Moe Yan Naing should be declared an unreliable witness, but the judge rejected the request.
April 29, 2018
Moe Yan Naing is sentenced to a year in prison for violating Myanmar’s Police Disciplinary Act by talking to Wa Lone.
May 16, 2018
Police Lance Corporal Naing Lin, the officer Moe Yan Naing said was ordered to entrap Wa Lone, tells the court he met the reporters, but denies giving them documents.
June 11, 2018
A senior police officer denies during cross-examination by defence lawyers that the reporters were held at an interrogation camp, mistreated or asked if they were “spies” during questioning. Afterwards, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo dispute this account, saying they were handcuffed and questioned every two hours by different officers for about three days during their two-week detention period at the Aung Tha Pyay police special branch interrogation centre.
July 2, 2018
Prosecutors and defence lawyers deliver final arguments in the pre-trial phase of the case.
July 9, 2018
Yangon district judge Ye Lwin charges Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo with breaching the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. Both journalists plead “not guilty” to the charges, telling the judge they “followed journalistic ethics”.
July 16, 2018
Wa Lone gives the first detailed account to the court of the night he and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested, saying that Police Lance Corporal Naing Lin had called him at least twice on Dec. 12, demanding a meeting at which the officer abruptly handed both reporters some papers. He said they were arrested by plainclothes officers almost immediately after Naing Lin gave him the papers, which he did not have time to look at.
July 17, 2018
In a second day of testimony, Wa Lone describes how police deprived him and Kyaw Soe Oo of sleep for about three days and placed black hoods over their heads while transporting them to the interrogation centre.
Wa Lone says the interrogation focussed on their reporting of the Inn Din killings, rather than on the documents they are accused of obtaining.
July 24, 2018
Kyaw Soe Oo testifies that he was forced to kneel on the floor for hours after police found images of the men killed at Inn Din on his phone.
Aug. 4, 2018
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls for the immediate release of two Reuters reporters at a meeting with Myanmar Foreign Minister Kyaw Tin on the sidelines of a regional conference in Singapore.
Aug. 6, 2018
Defence witnesses testify to the integrity of the two journalists, with former teacher Ye Naing Moe, director of Yangon Journalism School, praising both reporters as curious and excellent students who had won multiple awards for stories focusing on the underprivileged and social issues.
They were jailed “for revealing the truth”, he says.
Aug. 10, 2018
Wa Lone’s wife, Pan Ei Mon, gives birth to the couple’s first child, a baby girl, in a Yangon hospital. She is named Thet Htar Angel.
Aug. 20, 2018
Yangon district judge Ye Lwin announces he will deliver his verdict on Aug. 27.
(Editing by Alex Richardson)