Myanmar court sentences U.S. journalist to 11 years in jail

BANGKOK – A court in military-ruled Myanmar sentenced imprisoned US journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in prison on Friday after convicting him on a number of charges, including inciting alleged dissemination of false or inflammatory information.

Fenster, the editor-in-chief of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, has also been found guilty of contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations, lawyer Than Zaw Aung said.

Fenster has been detained since May. He still faces two more charges in another court of alleged anti-terrorism law violation and a treason and sedition law.

Fenster was arrested at Yangon International Airport on May 24 while boarding a flight to travel to the Detroit area of ​​the United States to see his family.

He is the only foreign journalist convicted of a serious crime since the army took power in February and ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military-appointed government cracked down on freedom of the press, shut down virtually all critical media and arrested around 100 journalists, around 30 of whom are still in prison. Some of the closed branches have continued to operate without a license and published online while their employees avoid arrest.

The takeover of power by the army led to widespread peaceful protests, which were crushed with deadly force. The Aid Association for Political Prisoners has given details of the deaths of more than 1,200 civilians and around 10,000 arrests. Since then, armed resistance has spread, and UN experts and other observers fear that the uprising could slide into civil war.

Window’s next challenge is the two additional charges filed in another court in Yangon on Monday, according to his attorney.

Than Zaw Aung said one of the new charges falls under a section of the anti-terrorism law that carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison. The military-appointed government has announced that it will apply the law harshly in cases where opposition organizations are classified as “terrorist”.

The other charge under the Criminal Code is usually referred to as treason or sedition and is punishable by a prison sentence of seven to 20 years.

The hearings on the original three charges were held in the court at Insein Prison in Yangon, where Fenster is held. They were closed to the press and the public. Reports of the trial come from Window’s attorney.

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