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An appeal by four reporters from Unity Weekly news journal against their 10-year jail sentence is to be heard by Magwe Divisional Court, a lawyer for the journalists said on Monday.
The four – Maw Naing, Sithu Soe, Aung Thura and Yazar Oo – were each found guilty earlier this month by Magwe District Court on charges under the Official Secrets Act after Unity Weekly published a report in January which accused the Burmese government of secretly using a facility in Magwe’s Pauk Township as a chemical weapons factory. A fifth defendant, Unity CEO Tint Hsan, was also charged.
But legal observers and rights activists reacted with shock at the verdict – ten years in prison with hard labour.
Lawyers for the four reporters filed an appeal at Magwe Divisional High Court on Monday.
Robert San Aung, lawyer for the four Unity reporters, said the appeal was accepted.
“We submitted an appeal at the high court on behalf of the four Unity reporters, because we consider the district court’s verdict unfair,” said Robert San Aung. “High Court judge Daw Nu Yin accepted the appeal. We have been informed that it may take about 45 days until the first hearing begins.”
He said the appeal was submitted on the grounds that the local court’s verdict was a violation of the four journalists’ freedom of expression provided for by constitutional Article 354.
CEO Tint San is reportedly filing a separate appeal through his own legal representatives.