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.

Rohingya Muslims use their cellphones as they sit on a hillock overlooking Balukhali refugee camp, in Bangladesh, Nov. 14, 2018. Bangladesh authorities said they are ready to begin repatriating some of the more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who have
Rights Group Calls for Halt to Rohingya Repatriation

Amnesty International is calling on Myanmar and Bangladesh to end their plans to send Rohingya Muslims back to Rakhine state, where the United Nations says they are subject to extrajudicial killings and other atrocities carried out by Myanmar's military.

Amnesty says the organized return of the Rohingya, slated to start as soon as November 15, is a "reckless move, which puts lives at risk."

Amnesty's East and Southeast Asia Director Nicholas Bequelin said, "These women, men and children would be sent back into the Myanmar military's grasp with no protection guarantees, to live alongside those

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.

Rohingya refugee children shout slogans during a protest against repatriation efforts, Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Nov. 15, 2018.

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.