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U.N. chief urges Myanmar government to free Reuters journalists

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By Reuters
U.N. chief urges Myanmar government to free Reuters journalists
FILE PHOTO: Reuters journalist Wa Lone departs Insein court after his verdict announcement in Yangon, Myanmar, September 3, 2018. REUTERS/Ann Wang/File Photo   -   Copyright  ANN WANG(Reuters)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called on the Myanmar government to pardon and release two imprisoned Reuters journalists as soon as possible.

“I hope that the government will be able to provide a pardon to release them as soon as possible,” Guterres told reporters at the United Nations in response to a question about Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent remarks on the case. 

Reuters reporters Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were convicted on Sept. 3 under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act in a case that was seen as a test of democratic freedoms in Myanmar.

The reporters, who pleaded not guilty, said they were handed rolled papers by police shortly before they were detained last December, and a police witness testified in court that they had been set up.

The reporters had been investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and local Buddhists amid a military response to insurgent attacks last August.

Some 700,000 Rohingya crossed from Myanmar into Bangladesh fleeing the crackdown, which U.N.-mandated investigators said last month was launched by senior Myanmar generals with “genocidal intent”.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Writing by Susan Heavey; editing by Clive McKeef)