Myanmar Sentences U.S. Journalist to 11 Years in Prison
(Bloomberg) -- A Myanmar court on Friday found American journalist Danny Fenster guilty of three charges including inciting dissent against the military and sentenced him to 11 years in prison, according to his lawyer and the news outlet that employed him.
Fenster, the managing editor of news outlet Frontier Myanmar, was also found guilty of breaching immigration laws and being in contact with banned organizations nearly six months after he was detained by the Southeast Asian nation’s military junta.
“We can say that this is the first harsh verdict handed down to a foreigner by a court in Myanmar since the coup. It is not appropriate,” Than Zaw Aung, the lawyer for Fenster, said by phone.
He said the journalist was also asked to pay a fine of 100,000 kyats ($56).
Fenster is one of two foreigners still being held by the junta, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The other is Sean Turnell, who was a special economic consultant to Myanmar’s detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, both of whom are also on trial for several alleged offenses.
He was taken into custody by the regime at the airport in Yangon in May as he was trying to leave the country just months after the junta took over. He was held in the city’s Insein Prison and later charged.
“The charges were based on the allegation he was working for Myanmar Now in the aftermath of the Feb. 1 coup,” Frontier Myanmar tweeted referring to another local news outlet. “Danny resigned from Myanmar Now in July 2020 and joined Frontier the following month.”
Frontier Myanmar is an independent English-language news magazine based in Yangon that is often critical of the military.
The sentence comes in the same week the court added fresh charges of terrorism and sedition to Fenster’s alleged offenses. If found guilty of the former, he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison, while the penalty for the sedition law goes up to three years.
The U.S. government has pushed the junta to release the journalist even though it formally shuns Myanmar and has led international efforts to sanction the regime and its businesses.
The court decision has drawn criticism from Human Rights Watch who said the sentence will intimidate local journalists in Myanmar. “The message is that if we can do this to a foreigner, imagine what we will do to you,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for the group.
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