American journalist Danny Fenster has been freed from prison in Myanmar, according to a Myanmar military official and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who had been on a private humanitarian visit to the country.
Fenster’s release comes just days after the former managing editor of Frontier Myanmar — an independent news outlet that covered current affairs, business and politics — was sentenced to 11 years in prison by a military court in Myanmar.
Myanmar’s military spokesperson Zaw Min Tun told CNN Business that the journalist “has been released and deported. We will release details why he was released later.”
According to a statement released by Richardson on Monday, Fenster will be making his way back to the United States “through Qatar, over the next day and a half.”
A former US ambassador to the United Nations, Richardson said he had conducted face-to-face negotiations with Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of Myanmar’s military junta.
Fenster’s family said they were “overjoyed” at his release.
“We cannot wait to hold him in our arms,’ they said in a statement. ” We are tremendously grateful to all the people who have helped secure his release, especially Ambassador Richardson, as well as our friends and the public who have expressed their support and stood by our sides as we endured these long and difficult months.”
Fenster, a 37-year-old from Detroit, Michigan, was arrested at Yangon International Airport on May 24 while he was trying to leave the country to visit his family in the United States. He had been denied bail and was held in Insein Prison in Yangon. On Friday, he was found guilty of three charges brought against him by the Myanmar military, which seized control of the country in a coup on February 1.
Those charges included visa breaches, unlawful association with an illegal group and incitement under section 505a of Myanmar’s Penal Code, which makes it a crime to publish or circulate comments that “cause fear” or spread “false news.”
Sonny Swe, Publisher, CEO and co-founder of Frontier Myanmar, Fenster’s former employer in Myanmar, told CNN Business on the phone that Fenster was already on a plane having left Insein prison earlier in the day.
“I’m very, very pleased to hear about the news. Not only our happiness, I’ve been there before, I know how Danny and the family will be feeling right now,” Swe said. “From this point onwards, it’s all positive. He deserves to be reunited with his family.”
Fenster was one of about 126 journalists or media workers detained since the coup, according to the UN. About 47 remain behind bars.
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