American journalist sentenced in Myanmar to 11 years in prison – .

American journalist sentenced in Myanmar to 11 years in prison – .

Fenster, 37, from Detroit, Mich., Has been detained in Myanmar for more than five months. He was denied bail and has been held at Insein Prison, in the country’s largest city, Yangon, since his arrest on May 24.

At a court hearing on Friday, his lawyer Than Zaw Aung said Fenster was convicted of three counts brought against him by the Burmese military, which took control of the country in a coup on February 1.

These charges include visa violations, unlawful association with an illegal group, and incitement under Section 505a of the Myanmar Penal Code, which makes it an offense to post or broadcast “fear-causing” or broadcast comments. “Fake news”. Fenster was also fined in local currency equivalent to $ 50.

Fenster is one of some 100 journalists detained since the coup. About thirty of them remain behind bars.

Earlier this week, he faced two new criminal charges under the country’s sedition and terrorism laws, carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison, his lawyer said.

They include charges under section 124a of Myanmar’s Criminal Code, which provides for seven to 20 years’ imprisonment for attempted incitement to hatred, contempt or disaffection towards the government and the military.

The other charge falls under Article 50a of the Anti-Terrorism Law, which criminalizes any contact with officially designated “terrorist” groups. On terrorism charges, Fenster could face a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison if convicted, according to his lawyer and Myanmar sentencing guidelines.

These charges will be heard separately.

It was not clear why the charges were brought against the former editor-in-chief of Frontier Myanmar, an independent outlet that covered Myanmar news, business and politics. Fenster was arrested at Yangon International Airport as he attempted to leave the country to see his family in the United States.

CNN Business has contacted the Burmese military for comment.

“Justice crossroads”

Frontier Myanmar said in a statement posted on Facebook that it was “deeply disappointed” with the conviction.

“Everyone at Frontier is disappointed and frustrated with this decision. We just want Danny to be released as soon as possible so he can return home with his family, ”said Thomas Keen, Frontier editor.

Frontier Myanmar said the charges were based on the allegation that Fenster worked for the banned outlet Myanmar Now following the military coup. But Frontier said Fenster resigned from Myanmar Now in July 2020 and that at the time of his arrest in May 2021 he had been working with Frontier for more than nine months.

Fenster was sentenced to three years on the incitement charge, three years on the illegal association charge and five years on the immigration charge, Frontier said, adding that the sentences imposed were as severe as possible under the law.

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

Phil Robertson, Deputy Director Asia to Human Rights Watch, said the conviction was a “travesty of justice carried out by a kangaroo court operating at the behest and demand of the Myanmar military junta.”

“The rationale for this outrageous and rights abusive condemnation is really twofold: to intimidate all remaining journalists in Myanmar by punishing Fenster in this way, while at the same time sending a message to the United States that Tatmadaw’s generals do not like. to be hit by economic attacks. sanctions and can retaliate with hostage diplomacy, ”Robertson said.

“Journalism is not a crime, and it shouldn’t be treated that way – which means Danny Fenster and the many Burmese journalists still behind bars should be released urgently. “


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