US journalist ‘happy to be heading home’ after months in jail in Myanmar

American journalist Danny Fenster, who was freed after nearly six months in jail in military-ruled Myanmar, has expressed relief to be on his way home ahead to the US.

r Fenster, who was sentenced last week to 11 years of hard labour, was handed over on Monday to former US diplomat Bill Richardson, who helped negotiate the release.

He is one of more than 100 journalists, media officials and publishers who have been detained since the military ousted the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in February.

The longer it drags on, the more worried you are that it’s just never going to endDanny Fenster

“I’m feeling all right physically,” a bearded Fenster told journalists after landing in Doha, Qatar, on his route home.

“It’s just the same privations and things that come with any form of incarceration. The longer it drags on, the more worried you are that it’s just never going to end.”

He said he was not starved or beaten in custody and he was “happy to be on my way home”.

While jailed, Mr Fenster told his lawyer he believed he had Covid-19, although prison authorities denied it.

Mr Fenster, the managing editor of online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was convicted on Friday of spreading false or inflammatory information, contacting illegal organisations and violating visa regulations.

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Danny Fenster at Doha airport (Luis Costa/AP)

Days before his conviction, he learned he had been charged with additional violations that put him at risk of a life sentence.

“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,” said Mr Richardson, a former governor of New Mexico and ambassador to the United Nations.

Mr Fenster has been in detention since he was arrested at Yangon International Airport on May 24.

“We are overjoyed that Danny has been released and is on his way home — we cannot wait to hold him in our arms,” his family said in a statement.

The exact allegations against him were never clear, but much of the prosecution case appeared to hinge on proving that he was employed by another online news site that was ordered closed this year during the crackdown on the media that followed the de facto coup. Mr Fenster used to work for the site but left last year.

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