US journalist detained in Myanmar pardoned and released
YANGON: A US journalist imprisoned in Myanmar since May was pardoned and deported on Monday, a day before he was due to face terror and sedition charges that could have jailed him for life.
The military has squeezed the press since taking power in a February coup, arresting dozens of journalists critical of its crackdown on dissent, which has killed more than 1,200 people according to a local monitoring group.
Danny Fenster had been working at local outlet Frontier Myanmar for around a year and was arrested as he headed home to see his family in May.
He was jailed for 11 years last week for incitement, unlawful association and breaching visa rules and had been due to appear in court on Tuesday to face sedition and terror charges — which could have seen him jailed for life.
But on Monday he was pardoned and released on “humanitarian grounds” the junta said, ending 176 days spent in a colonial-era prison where many of Myanmar’s most famous dissidents have been held.
Images on state media showed a gaunt Fenster walking with US officials, and being handed a mobile phone to speak into.
The 37-year-old’s release was secured following “face-to-face negotiations” between former US diplomat Bill Richardson and junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, Richardson’s organisation said in a statement.
Fenster would travel home to the US “through Qatar, over the next day and a half,” the Richardson Center said. In a statement, the family expressed their relief at Fenster’s release.
“We are overjoyed that Danny has been released and is on his way home — we cannot wait to hold him in our arms,” the statement said, thanking Richardson for his help.
A photo posted by the Richardson Center showed Fenster standing in shorts and flip flops in front of a small plane alongside the former New Mexico governor on the tarmac in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw.
“It’s wonderful news for all of his friends and family,” his colleague at Frontier Myanmar Andrew Nachemson said.
Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2021