Danny Fenster, the American journalist that was taken into custody as he attempted to leave Myanmar in May, has had additional charges of terrorism and sedition levied against him today. He is now facing a maximum sentence of life in prison for those charges, a grave turn from the original 6 years he was facing for the accusation of promoting dissent against the Burmese military junta as well as unlawful association.
A trial for these new charges is scheduled to get underway on November 16, and the lawyer for Fenster says his client is disappointed in the new charges being added. Original reports said the additional charge being added yesterday would be one of breaching immigration law, so the far more severe charges of sedition and terrorism are surely a shock.
The 37 year old journalist had been the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, a local newspaper for about a year and was travelling back to the US to see family when he was taken into custody. He has been held in Insein prison in Yangon since then.
His lawyer reports that Fenster has lost a lot of weight while his family believe he was infected with Covid-19 in August in the prison while facing charges. He is one of about 100 journalists that have been arrested since the Burmese military coup in February, as they tried to clamp down dissent by throttling the press, revoking media licenses, and limiting internet access. There are 31 journalists still being held in prison after an act of amnesty for a Buddhist holiday saw the release of prisoners including some journalists.
There had been some hope with the recent visit of former UN ambassador Bill Richardson, who had negotiated hostage and prisoner releases in Cuba, Iraq, North Korea, and Sudan. But the negotiator said that the State Department told him not to mention Fenster during his trip, and he was there solely to attempt to regain access for the International Committee of the Red Cross to prisons and political prisoners.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post