Myanmar Frees US Journalist Detained Since May

American journalist Danny Fenster has been freed from prison in Myanmar, days after a court handed down an 11 year prison sentence on charges filed by the ruling military junta. 

“Great news,” Sonny Swe, the publisher of Yangon-based online news magazine Frontier Myanmar, where Fenster works as managing editor, said in a tweet announcing the American’s release Monday without going into details.

“Danny is one of many journalists in Myanmar who have been unjustly arrested simply for doing their job since the February coup,” the magazine said on Twitter. “We call on the military regime to release all of the journalists who remain behind bars in Myanmar.” 

Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told The Associated Press that Fenster had been released to him and would soon be on his way back to the United States via Qatar.

“We are so grateful that Danny will finally be able to reconnect with his loved ones, who have been advocating for him all this time, against immense odds,” Richardson said in a statement released to the AP.

Fenster was arrested on May 24 at Yangon International Airport shortly before he was to board a flight to the United States. He was sentenced Friday to 11 years in jail on charges of unlawful association, incitement against the military and breaching visa rules. Fenster was also facing two additional charges of terrorism and sedition that were filed against him just a few days earlier that could have led to an additional 30 years in prison.

Fenster’s lawyer, Than Zaw Aung, said his client’s arrest was based on his brief employment as a copy editor with the online news service Myanmar Now, which he quit last year before joining Frontier Myanmar magazine.

Myanmar Now was one of five media outlets whose licenses were revoked by the junta in April.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted the civilian government on February 1 and arrested several of its leaders, including de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and  President Win Myint.  

The military junta claimed the election results were fraudulent, an allegation rejected by the country’s election commission.  Violent clashes between the military and citizens who have staged mass demonstrations against the junta have left more than 1,252 citizens dead, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group. 

More than 100 journalists and media staff have been arrested during the crackdown, according to Reporting ASEAN, a monitoring website for news in Asia.

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters. 

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