Myanmar releases US reporter sentenced to 11 years in prison

Bangkok, Nov 15 (EFE).- The authorities in Myanmar have released American journalist Danny Fenster, sentenced last week to 11 years in prison, former US diplomat Bill Richardson announced Monday.

The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, run by the former governor of New Mexico, said in a statement that Danny and the Richardson team would return home via Qatar over the next day and a half.

Frontier Myanmar, the online magazine for which Fenster was managing editor, said the journalist was already on his way to the United States.

Fenster, 37, was sentenced Friday to 11 years in prison on several charges, including incitement and violations of immigration and unlawful associations laws after a closed-door trial in a court inside Yangon’s Insein Prison, where he was being held.

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.

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

The journalist has been released following a widespread international campaign that included a recent visit to the country by Richardson, who met with the military junta head, Min Aung Hlaing.

The former diplomat expressed gratitude that Danny was able to return home, thanking the governments of Qatar and Norway and several other people that contributed towards Fenster’s release.

Frontier Myanmar’s managing editor, Thomas Kean, welcomed the reporter’s release and recalled that many other journalists have been unjustly detained in the country.

Fenster worked from mid-2019 to July 2020 at Myanmar Now before going on to join Frontier Myanmar.

Following an opaque judicial process, the journalist was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for trying to delegitimize the military junta, another three years’ imprisonment for illegal association and five years for violating the Immigration Act.

Three other foreign journalists – the American Nathan Maung, the Polish Robert Bociaga and the Japanese Yuki Kitazumi – were previously detained by the military junta, but were later repatriated.

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


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