Crime & Justice

Myanmar court sentences US journalist to 11 years in prison

Bangkok, Nov 12 (EFE).- A court in Myanmar has sentenced American journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in prison for three charges, his employer reported on Friday.

Frontier Myanmar, the online magazine for which Fenster is managing editor, reported that the journalist was sentenced for incitement and violations of immigration and unlawful associations laws after a closed-door trial in a court inside Yangon’s Insein Prison, where he is being held.

“The sentences imposed were the harshest possible under the law,” it said.

The charges were based on allegations that Fenster was working for the Myanmar Now news outlet, which was banned by the military junta after the Feb. 1 coup, Frontier Myanmar said. However, it added that the journalist had left the outlet in July 2020 and had been working for Frontier Myanmar for nine months at the time of his arrest.

Frontier Myanmar said it had provided “a significant amount of evidence” of Fenster’s employment, including tax and social security records and a testimonial.

“There is absolutely no basis to convict Danny of these charges. His legal team clearly demonstrated to the court that he had resigned from Myanmar Now and was working for Frontier from the middle of last year,” said Editor-in-Chief Thomas Kean in a statement.

“Everyone at Frontier is disappointed and frustrated at this decision. We just want to see Danny released as soon as possible so he can go home to his family.”

Fenster, who was arrested at Yangon airport in May when he was leaving the country to visit family in the United States, was also slapped this week with additional charges under sedition and terrorism laws, which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, tweeted that the sentence handed down Friday was “outrageous and unacceptable.”

“Charges against him are trumped up & bogus, he’s committed no crimes! Solidarity with Danny, release him now!” Robertson wrote.

Three other foreign journalists, Nathan Maung (United States), Robert Bociaga (Poland) and Yuki Kitazumi (Japan), were also detained by the military junta after the coup, but later deported.

Since the coup, more than 100 journalists have been arrested by security forces, according to data from the NGO Reporters Without Borders. It is difficult to determine how many remain in prison after the amnesty decreed in October.

According to the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners, at least 1,253 people have died due to repression by the security forces, while 10,034 have been detained, including de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The coup led by General Min Aung Hlaing has plunged the country into a political, social and economic crisis, as well as into a spiral of violence with the birth of new civilian militias that have exacerbated the country’s decade’s long armed conflict.

The junta justifies the coup by alleging electoral fraud in the November 2020 polls, at which Suu Kyi’s party won by a landslide and had the backing of international observers.


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