Myanmar junta says it released jailed US jouro on ‘humanitarian grounds’
Bangkok, Nov 16 (EFE).- Myanmar’s military junta said Tuesday it released American journalist Daniel Fenster, arrested in May and sentenced to 11 years in prison for humanitarian reasons and to maintain “friendly relations” between both countries.
Through state newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar, authorities said Fenster’s Monday pardon and release were done to “maintain friendly relations between the two countries and emphasize humanitarian reasons.”
It said the pardon of the 37-year-old journalist, arrested in May when he tried to leave the country, was made at the request of former United States Governor Bill Richardson and Hideo Watanabe and Yohei Sasakawa, the Japan Myanmar Friendship Association president and the envoy for Myanmar’s national reconciliation, respectively.
The image of the meeting between Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and Richardson in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyitaw, made the front page of the Tuesday paper.
US State Secretary Anthony Blinken said on Twitter that he spoke to Fenster after his release when he was “on his way to reunite with his family in the US.”
“I look forward to welcoming you home Danny,” Blinken said.
Fenster, who left Monday for the US via Qatar, was sentenced Friday to 11 years in prison for various crimes, including violating a law that punishes anyone who tries to delegitimize the military junta, which took power in a coup on Feb. 1.
The reporter has been released following an international campaign of outcry.
Fenster worked from mid-2019 to July 2020 at Myanmar outlet Myanmar Now and has since joined the Frontier Myanmar team.
After a questionable judicial process, the journalist was sentenced to three years in prison for trying to delegitimize the military junta, another three for illegal association and five years for breaking the Immigration Law.
Fenster was also charged with sedition and terrorism.
The charges are based on the accusation that he was working for English-language publication Myanmar Now, outlawed by the military junta after the coup, even though the journalist had left the outlet in July 2020.
Three other foreign journalists – American Nathan Maung, Poland’s Robert Bociaga and Japan’s Yuki Kitazumi – were previously detained by the military junta, but have already been deported to their respective countries.
Data from rights group Reporters Without Borders says the military junta has detained more than 100 journalists since the coup, while it is difficult to determine how many remain in prison after the amnesty decreed in October. EFE