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Myanmar releases Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo from prison; duo among thousands granted amnesty by president

Myanmar released two imprisoned Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo 512 days after they were jailed for working on an investigative report on the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in Rakhine state.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were detained in Myanmar on 12 December, 2017. They were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act in September 2018 and sentenced to seven years in jail, in a case that raised questions about Myanmar’s progress toward democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.

The two reporters walked free from a prison on the outskirts of Yangon on Tuesday, witnesses said.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are among the 6,000 prisoners granted amnesty by President Win Myint. Since last month, the president has pardoned thousands of prisoners in mass amnesties. It is customary in Myanmar for authorities to free prisoners across the country around the time of the traditional New Year, which began on 17 April.

Reuters has maintained that the two men did not commit any crime and had called for their release.

Before their arrest in December 2017, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and Buddhist civilians in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State during an army crackdown that began in August 2017. The operation sent more than 7,30,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, according to UN estimates.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo's report featured testimonies from perpetrators, witnesses and families of the victims. They were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in May, adding to a number of accolades the duo received for their journalism.

The Supreme Court of Myanmar had rejected their final appeal in April. The two had petitioned the top court, citing evidence of a police set-up and lack of proof of a crime, after the Yangon High Court dismissed their appeal in January.

Both Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo's wives wives had written to the Myanmar government in April pleading for a pardon so their husbands could be reunited with their families.

With inputs from Reuters

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Updated Date: May 07, 2019 08:48:45 IST