Myanmar refuses to drop case against Reuters journos

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The massacre was being investigated by two Reuters journalists - Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28 - who were subsequently arrested in December and are still behind bars facing charges of violating the country's Official Secrets Act.

"The court decided that the proposal from the defendants' lawyer to release the defendants before all the witnesses were cross-examined has been rejected", judge Ye Lwin said.

Win Myat Aye, Myanmar's minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement, will speak with some of the roughly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims the United Nations and aid groups say fled a military crackdown in their Buddhist-majority country since last August.

Seven Myanmar soldiers have been sentenced to "10 years in prison with hard labour in a remote area" for participating in the massacre, the army said on Tuesday.

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The journalists had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men in the village of Inn Din, in western Myanmar's Rakhine state, during an army crackdown that has sent almost 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh.

The army denies the allegations and casts its campaign as a legitimate response to Rohingya militant attacks on August 25 that killed about a dozen border guard police.

The two journalists were arrested after they were invited to meet police officers for dinner in the north of Yangon.

He added: "We believe that there are solid grounds for the court to dismiss this matter and to release our journalists".

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Wa Lone's wife Pan Ei Mon, who is pregnant with their first child, broke down in tears after the hearing, telling journalists, "Wa Lone told me "not to expect too much" but I'm always expecting as his wife". But the reporters could face a maximum of 14 years. Reuters announced last month that that prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney had joined the legal team.

Refugees arriving over the months since then have reported killings, burnings, looting and rape by members of the Myanmar security forces and Buddhist vigilantes.

Reuters president Stephen J. Adler said in a statement that the company is "deeply disappointed" with the court's decision.

"They have not violated any laws in the course of their newsgathering and were simply doing their jobs". "We will continue to do all we can to secure their release". Some reporters from local and global media brought birthday cake for Wa Lone, whose birthday was on Wedsday, who blew the candles out on the way to the courtroom.

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Bangladesh wants the refugees to go home as quickly as possible and officials said this week they hoped the minister's visit would speed up repatriation.

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