Danny Fenster: American journalist sentenced in Myanmar to 11 years in prison

Fenster, a 37-year-old from Detroit, Michigan, has actually been apprehended in Myanmar for more than 5 months. He has actually been rejected bail and kept in Insein Jail, in the nation’s most significant city, Yangon, given that his Might 24 arrest.

At a court hearing on Friday, his legal representative Than Zaw Aung stated Fenster was condemned of 3 charges brought versus him by the Myanmar armed force, which took control of the nation in a coup on February 1.

Those charges consist of visa breaches, illegal association with an unlawful group and incitement under area 505a of Myanmar’s Penal Code, that makes it a criminal activity to release or flow remarks that “cause fear” or spread “false news.” Fenster was likewise offered a fine in regional currency equivalent to $50.

The trial was performed in a military court inside Insein Jail with procedures near the general public.

Fenster is among about 126 reporters or media employees apprehended given that the coup, according to the UN. About 47 stay behind bars.
Previously today he was struck with 2 brand-new criminal charges under the nation’s sedition and terrorism laws, which bring an optimal sentence of life in jail, his legal representative stated.

They consist of charges under Area 124a of Myanmar’s Penal Code, which mandates 7 to twenty years jail time for trying to bring hatred, contempt or disaffection towards the federal government and armed force.

The other charge is under Area 50a of the Counter Terrorism Law, that makes it a criminal activity to have contact with formally designated “terrorist” groups. Under the terrorism charge, Fenster might deal with a minimum of ten years in jail and an optimum of life in jail if founded guilty, according to his legal representative and Myanmar’s sentencing standards.

These charges will be heard individually.

It was uncertain why the charges have actually been brought versus the previous handling editor of Frontier Myanmar, an independent news outlet that covered present affairs, service and politics in Myanmar. Fenster was jailed at Yangon International Airport while attempting to leave the nation to see his household in the United States.

CNN Service has actually connected to Myanmar’s military for remark.

‘Travesty of justice’

Frontier Myanmar stated in a declaration published on Facebook it was “deeply disappointed” at the sentencing.

“Everyone at Frontier is disappointed and frustrated at this decision. We just want to see Danny released as soon as possible so he can go home to his family,” stated Thomas Keen, Frontier’s Editor-in-Chief.

Frontier Myanmar stated the charges were based upon the accusation that Fenster was working for prohibited media outlet Myanmar Now in the consequences of the military coup. However Frontier stated Fenster had actually resigned from Myanmar Now in July 2020, and at the time of his arrest in May 2021 had actually been working with Frontier for more than 9 months.

Fenster received a three-year sentence for the incitement charge, three years for the unlawful association charge and five years for the immigration charge, Frontier stated, adding the sentences imposed were the harshest possible under the law.

Parents of detained journalist in Myanmar: 'It's a total nightmare'

“There is absolutely no basis to convict Danny of these charges. His legal team clearly demonstrated to the court that he had resigned from Myanmar Now and was working for Frontier from the middle of last year,” stated Kean.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, stated the sentence was a “travesty of justice executed by a kangaroo court operating at the beck and call of the Myanmar military junta.”

“The rationale for this outrageous, rights abusing sentence is really twofold: To intimidate all remaining journalists inside Myanmar by punishing Fenster this way, while at the same time sending a message to the US that the Tatmadaw generals don’t appreciate being hit with economic sanctions and can bite back with hostage diplomacy,” Robertson stated.

“Journalism is not a crime, and it shouldn’t be treated that way — meaning that Danny Fenster and the many Burmese journalists still behind bars should urgently be freed.”

A US State Department spokesperson condemned the sentence, saying “the ruling today represents an unjust conviction of an innocent person.”

“We are closely monitoring Danny’s situation and will continue to work for his immediate release,” the spokesperson stated Friday. “We will do so until Danny returns home safely to his family.”

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.