A jailed Reuters reporter told a court in Myanmar on Monday that documents he is accused of breaking state secrets laws to obtain were planted by a police officer, who handed him papers he had not sought in order to entrap him. The officer had then lied to the court about what happened, he said.
Wa Lone, 32, who began giving evidence last week at the court in northern Yangon, also said under questioning by prosecutors that he had followed journalistic ethics in his reporting of a massacre of Rohingya Muslims last year.
Wa Lone and Reuters colleague Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are on trial on charges brought under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, in a case seen as a test of press freedom in Myanmar. Both have pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they face up to 14 years in prison.
As his hours-long cross-examination continued on Monday, Wa Lone repeatedly stated that the reporters were framed by police who handed them papers “without asking” minutes before they were arrested on Dec. 12.
Lead prosecutor Kyaw Min Aung questioned Wa Lone about the documents, asking whether the reporter believed their contents could be damaging to the state if given to insurgents, and why he was arrested with the documents.
Wa Lone said he had not reviewed the documents properly before he was arrested, so could not speak about their contents. He repeatedly said he had not violated Myanmar media law.
“The documents found in my hands were given by Police Lance Corporal Naing Lin to set us up and arrest us,” Wa Lone told the court.
Naing Lin testified during pre-trial hearings that he met the reporters at a restaurant on Dec. 12, but said that he did not hand them anything. Wa Lone told the court on Monday that Naing Lin had given false testimony.
Prosecutor Kyaw Min Aung declined to comment at the end of the day’s proceedings.
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay has declined to answer questions on the proceedings, saying Myanmar’s courts are independent and the case would be conducted according to the law. He did not answer calls seeking comment on Monday.
Kyaw Soe Oo began testifying on Monday afternoon shortly before Judge Ye Lwin adjourned proceedings for the day. The trial continues on Tuesday.