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Monday, December 5, 2022

A Myanmar court has sentenced a US journalist to 11 years in prison

After finding him guilty of multiple crimes, including incitement for allegedly distributing false or provocative material, a Myanmar court sentenced jailed American journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in prison on November 12 after finding him guilty of several offences, including incitement. Since his arrest in August, Fenster has been held in detention.

He was also found guilty of contacting unlawful groups and breaking visa requirements, according to Mr. Fenster’s attorney, Than Zaw Aung. Mr. Fenster is the managing editor of the online journal Frontier Myanmar.

Mr. Fenster has been held without charge since May. A second set of allegations against him has been filed in a separate court for allegedly breaking the anti-terrorist legislation as well as a statute addressing treason and sedition.

When Mr. Fenster was stopped on May 24 at Yangon International Airport just before taking off for the United States, he said he was attempting to go to meet his relatives in the Detroit area.

He is the first foreign journalist to be convicted of a major felony since the army took power in February, deposing Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratic administration and installing a military dictatorship in its place.

The military-installed administration has repressed press freedom to an extreme degree, closing down practically all critical outlets and detaining over 100 journalists, approximately 30 of whom remain imprisoned. Some of the shuttered businesses have continued to operate without a licence, posting content on the internet while their employees avoid imprisonment.

The army’s takeover was greeted with huge nonviolent demonstrations, which were eventually put down with brutal force by the military police. Additionally, more than 1,200 civilians were killed and another 10,000 people were arrested, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Armed resistance has subsequently expanded, and experts from the United Nations and other observers are concerned that the incipient insurgency could devolve into civil war.

The two further accusations against Mr. Fenster, according to his lawyer, have been filed in a separate court in Yangon and will be the subject of his next appeal.

Than Zaw Aung said that one of the new accusations falls under a provision of the Counterterrorism Act that carries a sentence ranging from ten years to life in prison if found guilty of. It has been said that the military-installed administration would enforce the law rigorously in situations involving opposition groups that it deems to be terrorist organisations.

The second accusation under the criminal code is often referred to as treason or sedition, and it carries a sentence of seven to twenty years in jail.

Mister Fenster is being imprisoned at Yangon’s Insein Prison, where the hearings on the initial three charges have been taking place in the prison’s courtroom. Media and the general population were not permitted in. Several accounts of the proceedings have been provided by Mr. Fenster’s legal counsel.

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