Myanmar court sentences US journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in jail
Danny Fenster was detained at Yangon International Airport in May as he was about to board a flight to go to the Detroit area to see his family.Fenster, the managing editor of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was also found guilty of contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations, lawyer Than Zaw Aung said. He was sentenced to the maximum term on each charge.
(Reuters) - Journalist Danny Fenster had an emotional reunion with his family on his return to the United States on Tuesday after more than five months in a Myanmar prison cell, and he pledged to keep working for others still detained in the country.
Fenster, 37, still wearing a red wool hat he said was given to him by a fellow inmate, said at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport that he felt "incredible" after being freed on Monday despite an 11-year prison sentence handed down just three days earlier.
American Journalist Jailed in Myanmar Faces New Charges Related to Terrorism, Treason
Danny Fenster was detained at the Yangon International Airport in May as he was waiting to take a flight to the Detroit area in the U.S. to visit his family. A person wears a t-shirt calling for the release of Fenster in Huntington Woods, Michigan, on June 4, 2021. Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images Related Articles Bill Richardson Defends Trip to Myanmar to Talk COVID, Says He's Deeply Invested in CountryOfficial Myanmar Records Didn't Accurately Show Where Jailed U.S. Journalist WorkedChina Shrugs Off Biden's Criticism for Skipping COP26, Highlights Renewable Energy FeatsBill Richardson, Former U.S. Ambassador to U.N.
"It's about this right here," he said as he hugged and posed with his family including father Buddy, mother Rose, and brother Bryan, who hail from a suburb of Detroit.
Fenster was accompanied by former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who flew to Myanmar on Monday to collect Fenster after talks over humanitarian aid and COVID-19 vaccines with junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, which Richardson said helped secure Fenster's release.
At a news conference, Fenster thanked those who campaigned for his release, and said he wanted to keep the spotlight on those still in detention in Myanmar, including at least 47 other journalists, according to the United Nations.
Myanmar: American journalist Danny Fenster has been released
"I'm going to take time to celebrate and to spend time with my family and then, you know, continue concentrating on all the other... journalists and prisoners of conscience," Fenster said.
Video: US journalist Danny Fenster released from prison in Myanmar (TODAY)
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights group, says 10,143 people have been arrested since the Feb. 1 coup in Myanmar, including many ordinary Burmese who have joined protests against the military.
"This will be a short little celebration but, you know, let's keep focused on what the actual story is here," Fenster added.
Fenster, in high spirits, said he kept positive in Yangon's notorious Insein Prison by reading and by jogging in a small circle in a prison courtyard. He joked that he had yet to speak to his employer, the magazine Frontier Myanmar, to check if he still worked there.
Jailed American journalist freed from Myanmar arrives in New York
American journalist Danny Fenster arrived in New York early Tuesday morning, hours after an international consortium of actors helped secure his release from imprisonment in Myanmar where he was recently sentenced to 11 years in prison.Fenster appeared in good spirits at a press conference held at John F. Kennedy International Airport, standing alongside former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations credited with being the lynchpin in securing the journalist's release from jail.
Richardson, who traveled to Myanmar as a private citizen, said he met four times with the junta chief and made progress on getting humanitarian aid and vaccines into Myanmar, where the coup derailed plans for COVID-19 vaccine deliveries.
"I think those discussions led to a little bit of understanding on the case of Danny," Richardson said.
The trips drew criticism that the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was giving legitimacy to the junta, which opponents say is not the legitimate government of Myanmar.
"You know what... (Myanmar) government officials asked me for in exchange for Danny? Nothing. They didn't ask me for anything. I couldn't deliver anything anyway," he said, turning to Fenster sitting beside him: "But here he is."
Since seizing power from an elected government, Myanmar's ruling generals have arrested leading politicians and cracked down on protests and dissent. About 1,260 people have been killed in violence, most shot by security forces.
The junta said it acted because its complaints of fraud by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, which won an election last year in a landslide, were being ignored by the election commission. The NLD says it won fairly, and the coup and the crackdown have drawn widespread international condemnation.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington, Editing by Angus MacSwan)
'Long Time Coming': U.S. Journalist Danny Fenster Home After 6 Months in Myanmar Jail .
Fenster was convicted last week to a handful of charges in Myanmar and then sentenced to 11 years of hard labor.Fenster, the managing editor of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was convicted last week of spreading false or inflammatory information, contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations. He was then sentenced to 11 years of hard labor in Myanmar until Bill Richardson, a former U.S. diplomat and past ambassador to the United Nations, helped negotiate his release, the Associated Press reported.