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Detained Reuters journalist Wa Lone gestures to the media as he is escorted by police after a court hearing in Yangon, Myanmar. REUTERS/Ann Wang

(reuters_tickers)

LONDON (Reuters) - British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson urged Myanmar to release two Reuters journalists who are in jail after being accused of possessing secret government papers.

A judge in Yangon on Wednesday rejected a request for dismissal of a case against the Reuters reporters, Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28.

"Very disappointed to hear Burmese @Reuters journalists Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone are now to face trial," Johnson said on Twitter. "Reiterate my calls for their release: Burmese authorities must show their commitment to media freedom."

A court in Yangon has been holding preliminary hearings since January to decide whether the journalists will be charged under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Judge Ye Lwin said it wasn't yet time for dismissal of the case because he wanted to hear the eight remaining prosecution witnesses out of the 25 listed, according to the reporters' defence lawyer Khin Maung Zaw. Only after that is the court expected to decide whether to send the two reporters to trial.

(Reporting by William James; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and David Stamp)

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Reuters