Danny Finster: American journalist sentenced to 11 years in prison in Myanmar

Read Time:3 Minute, 10 Second


Finster, 37, from Detroit, Michigan, was detained in Myanmar for more than five months. Since his arrest on May 24, he has been refused bail and detained in the Yongsheng Prison in Yangon, the country’s largest city.

At the court hearing on Friday, His lawyer Than Zaw Aung said Fenster was convicted of three charges against him by the Myanmar military, which seized control of the country through a coup on February 1.

These allegations include visa violations, illegal contact with illegal groups, and incitement under Section 505a of the Myanmar Criminal Law, which criminalizes publishing or disseminating comments that “cause fear” or spread “false news”. Fenster was also fined in local currency equivalent to $50.

His lawyer said that earlier this week, under the country’s sedition and terrorism laws, he was charged with two new criminal charges with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

These include allegations made under Article 124a of the Myanmar Criminal Law, which stipulates that anyone who attempts to produce hatred, contempt or dissatisfaction with the government and the military is punishable by 7 to 20 years of imprisonment.

Another allegation is based on section 50a of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which criminalizes contact with officially designated “terrorist” groups. According to his lawyers and Myanmar’s sentencing guidelines, according to terrorism charges, Fenster could face at least 10 years’ imprisonment and the longest life imprisonment if convicted.

These allegations will be heard separately.

It is not clear why the allegations were made against the former editor-in-chief of the Myanmar border, which is an independent news media that reports on current affairs, business and politics in Myanmar. Finster was arrested at Yangon International Airport while trying to leave the country to visit his family in the United States.

CNN Business has contacted the Myanmar military for comments.

‘Taunting Justice’

The Myanmar border said in a statement on Facebook that it was “deeply disappointed” by the verdict.

“Everyone at Frontier is disappointed and frustrated with this decision. We just want to see Danny be released as soon as possible so that he can go home and reunite with his family,” said Thomas Keen, editor-in-chief of Frontier.

The Myanmar border said the allegations are based on allegations that Fenster is now working for the banned media Myanmar after the military coup. However, Frontier stated that Fenster had resigned from Myanmar in July 2020. When he was arrested in May 2021, Fenster had been working at Frontier for more than nine months.

Parents of journalists detained in Myanmar:

Frontier said Fenster was sentenced to three years in prison for incitement, three years in prison for illegal association, and five years in prison for immigration, adding that according to the law, the sentence imposed is the most severe.

“There was absolutely no conviction for Danny based on these allegations. His legal team clearly proved to the court that he has resigned from Myanmar now and started working for Frontier in the middle of last year,” Keane said.

Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of Asia Human Rights Watch said that this sentence is “a kangaroo court operating at the call of the Burmese military government to mock justice.”

“The reason for this heinous and abusive judgment is actually twofold: by punishing Fenster in this way to intimidate all the remaining journalists in Myanmar, and at the same time send a message to the United States that the Myanmar general does not like being subjected to Economic strikes. Sanctions can be countered through hostage diplomacy,” Robertson said.

“Journalism is not a crime and should not be treated like that-this means that Danny Fenster and many Burmese journalists who are still in prison should be released urgently.”

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