Nayipyidaw pardons two reporters jailed for investigating a Rohingya massacre

After 511 days in prison, they were released on a New Year’s presidential pardon. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had collected evidence on the murder of 10 people. The investigation was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in May. Even the United Nations involved in the negotiations for their release.

Naypyidaw (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Sentenced to seven years in prison for breaking the Law on State Secrets, two Reuters (photos) Burmese journalists returned to freedom this morning after 511 days in prison thanks to a presidential pardon.

Last September, the North District Court of Yangon found Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29,  guilty of having "collected and obtained confidential documents" concerning the massacre of some Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State. The case raised questions about Myanmar's progress towards democracy and provoked protests by diplomats and human rights activists.

Through a mass amnesty that began last month, Burmese President Win Myint has forgiven thousands of other prisoners. It is customary in the country for the authorities to release prisoners throughout the country on the occasion of the traditional Burmese New Year, which opened on April 17th.

Before their arrest in December 2017, the two reporters investigated the killing of 10 Rohingya men and boys by army soldiers and Buddhist civilians in western Myanmar. The investigation, prepared with testimonies of the guilty, witnesses and families of the victims, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in May, which was added to a series of awards received by the couple for their work.

Last April, the Myanmar Supreme Court rejected journalists' final appeal. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had filed a petition with the highest Burmese legal authority, citing evidence of a police set-up and the absence of a crime. In January, the Yangon High Court had rejected a previous appeal.

Today journalists were released from Insein prison and handed over to Lord Ara Darzi, a British surgeon and health care expert who was a member of a government advisory commission for reforms in Rakhine State. Darzi said that the pardon negotiations with Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo involved the government of Myanmar, Reuters, the United Nations and representatives of other governments, but gave no further details.