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Myanmar

US journalist detained in Myanmar released

An airport official confirmed Danny Fenster left Myanmar but did not reveal the flight's destination

AFP, Yangon

AFP, Yangon

Published: November 15, 2021 11:23 AM GMT

Updated: November 15, 2021 11:34 AM GMT

US journalist detained in Myanmar released

US journalist Danny Fenster (left) with former US diplomat Bill Richardson next to an airplane on the tarmac at Naypyidaw International Airport on Nov. 15. (Photo: AFP)

A US journalist imprisoned in Myanmar since May has been released and deported from the country days after being sentenced to 11 years in jail, officials told AFP on Monday.

Danny Fenster was being taken to the capital Naypyidaw from Yangon where he was jailed and would be deported, a government source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He had been working at local outlet Frontier Myanmar for around a year and was arrested as he headed home to see his family in May.

"We can confirm that he has been released and will be deported. Detail will be released later," junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said.

An official source at Naypyidaw airport, requesting anonymity, confirmed that Fenster had departed but did not reveal the flight's destination.

Fenster, who spent 176 days in detention, was sentenced to 11 years in prison last week for encouraging dissent against the military, unlawful association and breaching immigration law.

But of course he never should have spent six months in jail ... and all the local journalists who remain imprisoned should also be released immediately

The 37-year-old was due to go on trial Tuesday on charges of terrorism and sedition, which could have seen him jailed for life.

"It's wonderful news for all of his friends and family," his colleague at Frontier Myanmar Andrew Nachemson told AFP.

"But of course he never should have spent six months in jail ... and all the local journalists who remain imprisoned should also be released immediately."

Earlier this month former US diplomat and hostage negotiator Bill Richardson met junta chief Min Aung Hlaing in the capital Naypyidaw, handing the increasingly isolated junta some rare publicity.

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Richardson said at the time that the US State Department had asked him not to raise Fenster's case during his visit.

Fenster is believed to have contracted Covid-19 during his detention, family members said during a conference call with American journalists in August.

"This is fantastic news for Danny and his family," International Crisis Group's Myanmar senior advisor Richard Horsey told AFP.

"He had done nothing wrong and should never have been put through this hell."

"It is also important at this moment to remember the many Myanmar journalists who have been unjustly detained, who must also be released."

More than 1,200 people have been killed by security forces in a crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military seized power in a February coup and ousted Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government.

More than 1,200 people have been killed by security forces in a crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.

The press has also been squeezed as the junta tries to tighten control over the flow of information, throttling internet access and revoking the licences of local media outlets.

More than 100 journalists have been arrested since the putsch, according to Reporting ASEAN, a monitoring group.

It says at least 30 are still in detention.

The coup snuffed out Myanmar's short-lived experiment with democracy, with civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi now facing a raft of charges in a junta court that could see her jailed for decades.

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