Jailed American journalist released from Myanmar arrives in New York

American journalist Danny Fenster arrived in New York early Tuesday morning, hours after an international consortium of actors helped secure his release from prison in Myanmar, where he was recently sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Fenster appeared in good spirits at a press conference held at John F. Kennedy International Airport, alongside former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (R), a former United States ambassador to the United Nations credited with being the lynchpin to secure the release of the journalist from the cell.

“I am incredibly grateful to [have] I saw Bill and his team there on the track waiting for me, and it’s the biggest feeling I can remember having, ”Fenster said.

He was granted his freedom in Myanmar on Monday in what Richardson described as a decree by the country’s ruling military junta calling for amnesty and a “humanitarian gesture for the American people.”

The charges against Fenster were never entirely clear after he was arrested six months earlier in what was criticized as a crackdown on the media by the ruling military junta. Last week, Fenster was sentenced to 11 years of military forced labor.

His release on Monday was secured through an intense and sustained campaign carried out by the United States; a wide range of international governments in Europe, the Middle East and Asia; and more individual diplomatic efforts by private citizens, like Richardson.

The former governor heads the Richardson Center, which is deeply involved in serving as an interlocutor on hostage matters and advocating for humanitarian efforts in countries where the US government or the international community is constrained due to sanctions.

Richardson said Fenster’s release happened in a short time on Monday, but was based on two weeks of direct discussions on humanitarian concerns and assistance with the country’s commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, who is isolated from the international community. after taking over the country in a military coup in February.

“We were in Myanmar for eight hours to bring Danny, eight hours, in and out. And it took one last meeting with … the military leader, to get a decree in which Danny received an amnesty and we brought him home, ”Richardson said.

He added that Fenster’s release was not assured by the promise of other deliverables.

“They didn’t ask me for anything. I couldn’t deliver anything anyway, ”Richardson said.

Fenster said he had no idea he would be released the day security officers told him to get out of his cell, their only instructions to pack some belongings and that the “dress code was going to be informal.”

He said they put him in a car, with his hands and legs chained, and told him not to ask questions. They drove him past the airport and into a neighboring city where he said he then sat for hours before someone told him he was free.

“I was sitting in a chair, looking at an empty chair in front of me, and several hours later a police officer sat down and said, ‘You have been charged with these crimes and found guilty. We are going to offer you this forgiveness and you are going to leave right now. ‘

Richardson’s efforts complemented other intensive diplomatic efforts to secure Fenster’s release, including by the US government, the Committee to Protect Journalists; Rep. Andy LevinAndrew (Andy) Levin American journalist released in Myanmar America faces daunting task in relation to Haiti House appears poised to withdraw infrastructure vote amid stubborn stalemate MORE (D-Mich.), Who represents the district where the Fenster family lives; and the governments of Japan, Singapore, Thailand, China, Israel, Sri Lanka, India, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the 10-member group of countries that includes Myanmar.

The Qatari government was also singled out as a key interlocutor in helping to secure Fenster’s freedom. Fenster was transferred from Myanmar to Doha before arriving in New York.

Roger Carstens, the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, said during the press conference that Fenster’s family deserved credit for securing the journalist’s release and could serve as a model for negotiations to free other hostages.

“The things they did to raise Danny’s case, those are the kinds of things other families need to learn from and we want to make sure we spread those lessons learned,” he said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed joy at Fenster’s release, but took the opportunity to highlight that at least 50 American journalists are unjustly imprisoned abroad, saying they continue to press for his release.

Fenster also reiterated the call to release jailed journalists, saying that he will take time to be with his family and appreciate their freedom, but that his mission is to raise the issue of hostages abroad.

“This will be a little celebration, but you know, let’s focus on what the real story is here.”

Fenster scoffed that he believes he is still employed at the news outlet he was working for at the time of his arrest, Frontier Myanmar, and that his departure from the country was so swift that he has not been able to communicate with his former colleagues.

“I need to go to a store, buy a SIM card, and get in touch with some people.”


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