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Two Reuters reporters freed in Myanmar after more than 500 days in jail

Two Reuters reporters freed in Myanmar after more than 500 days in jail

Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29 were convicted in Myanmar for breaking the Official Secrets Act walked free from prison on Tuesday after more than 500 days behind bars.

The two journalists had been convicted in September and sentenced to seven years in jail in a case that raised questions about Myanmar’s progress towards democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.

They were released under a presidential amnesty for 6,520 prisoners. President Win Myint has pardoned thousands of other prisoners in mass amnesties since last month.

It is customary in Myanmar for authorities to free prisoners across the country around the time of the traditional New Year, which began on April 17.

Swamped by media and well-wishers as they walked through the gates of Insein Prison, on the outskirts of Yangon, a grinning Wa Lone gave a thumbs up and said he was grateful for the international efforts to secure their freedom.

“I’m really happy and excited to see my family and my colleagues. I can’t wait to go to my newsroom,” he said.

Government spokesman Zaw Htay said the decision to release the two was made after the families wrote to government leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“We took the letters into consideration and released them in the interest of the country,” Zaw Htay told reporters.