Reuters journalist Wa Lone, center, talks to journalists as he is escorted by police to leave a court in Yangon, Myanmar, Sept. 3, 2018.
Reuters journalist Wa Lone, center, talks to journalists as he is escorted by police to leave a court in Yangon, Myanmar, Sept. 3, 2018.

Myanmar's High Court has ruled that two jailed Reuters reporters can appeal their convictions on charges of violating the country's law that prohibits the gathering of secret documents to help an enemy, defense lawyers said.

The appeal cited evidence police framed the journalists and a lack of proof of a crime.

FILE - Myanmar press freedom advocates and youth a
Myanmar press freedom advocates and youth activists hold a demonstration demanding the freedom of two jailed Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in Yangon, Myanmar, Sept. 16, 2018.

Legal advisor of the Norway-based Asian Human Rights Commission, U Min Lwin Oo, said in an interview with VOA Burmese the journalists will attend another hearing at which the judge will likely acquit them or reduce their sentences, which would probably trigger another appeal.

Defense attorney L. Khun Ring Pan said, "We hope that the high court will finally provide justice for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and declare them innocent." 

The reporters were found guilty in September in a landmark case that has raised questions about Myanmar's progress towards democracy and sparked complaints from human rights proponents.

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The journalists were covering the massacre of 10 Muslim Rohingya men and boys by security forces and local Buddhists in the western Rakhine state when they were arrested in December.

The massacre was part of the wider broader crackdown that began in August 2017, an operation that forced more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

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Committee to Protect Journalists Director Steve Butler told VOA Burmese, "We are pleased that the case is moving forward", but noted it is still "very difficult to report from Myanmar."

Myanmar de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi said in September the reporters' arrests were unrelated to freedom of expression.  A week after their conviction, she said they were sentenced to seven years in prison for violating the country's colonial-era Official Secrets Act.