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Myanmar whistleblower police officer says jailing a warning

May 9, 2018 GMT
Myanmar's police Capt. Moe Yan Naing, center, is escorted by police officers as he leaves the court after trial of two Reuters journalists Wednesday, May 9, 2018, Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)
Myanmar's police Capt. Moe Yan Naing, center, is escorted by police officers as he leaves the court after trial of two Reuters journalists Wednesday, May 9, 2018, Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A Myanmar police officer who testified that his colleagues helped frame two reporters being tried on charges of possessing state secrets said Wednesday his subsequent jailing was intended to intimidate any other officers thinking of telling the truth.

Police Capt. Moe Yan Naing had his hands shackled and was wearing blue prison clothing as he appeared in court for the second time. After he gave his surprise initial testimony last month, he was sentenced to a year in jail for violating the Police Disciplinary Act and his family was forced to vacate their police housing unit.

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His testimony boosted hope that Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo would be acquitted of the charges, under which they could be imprisoned for 14 years. They had been covering the brutal counterinsurgency operation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that drove 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

“Putting me in prison is meant to threaten other policemen who want to tell the truth,” Moe Yan Naing told reporters on his way back to jail after testifying Wednesday. “No one should be jailed for telling the truth.”

The prosecution had tried to have his testimony thrown out but the judge last week rejected the motion.

Moe Yan Naing was detained on Dec. 12 last year, the same day the journalists were arrested. His jail sentence was nominally for having spoken earlier without permission to Wa Lone about his duties in Rakhine. The subject is sensitive because the military’s actions there have come under harsh criticism internationally, including charges that it was carrying out ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.

In response to questioning by defense lawyer Than Zaw Aung, Moe Yan Naing said he and Wa Lone met at a teashop in his police force compound, and that Wa Lone didn’t ask for any secret documents from him, and that other officers under his command also said they had not been asked for secret documents.

He also testified that the documents that police put in the hands of the two reporters covered past activities and were prepared by a police computer operator to entrap the reporters, to be handed over to them at the order of his superior, a police brigadier general.

“Today what Moe Yan Naing testified is how Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were trapped,” the defense lawyer told reporters after the court session. “We are more hopeful.”

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Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo both expressed appreciation for his testimony as they talked to reporters before being returned to Insein Prison.

“He is very brave and respects the law. So we are very happy for what he testified as I totally believe that it was truth,” said Wa Lone. “And we hope for him and us that the truth and justice will be coming soon. I want to say that he bravely testified to show that there are people who love justice in our society.”