Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday welcomed the release of American journalist Danny Fenster from prison in Myanmar, where he had been detained for more than five months and was recently sentenced to 11 years behind bars.
In a statement, Blinken commended the work of U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar Tom Vajda, Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson for helping secure Fenster’s release.
“We are glad that Danny will soon be reunited with his family as we continue to call for the release of others who remain unjustly imprisoned in Burma,” Blinken said.
Fenster, a 37-year-old Michigan native and managing editor of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was arrested in May in the aftermath of the Myanmar military’s February coup of the Southeast Asian nation’s democratically elected government.
Fenster had been denied bail and held in the infamous Insein Prison in Yangon, the country's biggest city. On Friday, a military court handed down an 11-year prison sentence with hard labor, finding Fenster guilty of spreading false or inflammatory information, contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations.
On Monday, Richardson — a former member of Congress, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Energy secretary — could be seen with Fenster in a picture posted to the Richardson Center for Global Engagement’s Twitter account. The two men were posing together on a tarmac in front of a nearby jet.
The center tweeted that Fenster and Richardson would be returning from Myanmar “over the next day and a half,” passing through Qatar on their way back to the United States. Fenster’s release, the center added, “was secured following a private humanitarian visit” by Richardson to Myanmar and “face-to-face negotiations” with General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander in chief of the Burmese military that is now ruling the country.
Veteran U.S. diplomat Cameron Hume, Richardson Center Vice President and Executive Director Mickey Bergman, and Richardson Center senior adviser and program director Steve Ross all accompanied Richardson on the trip, according to the center.
“This is the day that you hope will come when you do this work,” Richardson said in a statement. “We are so grateful that Danny will finally be able to reconnect with his loved ones, who have been advocating for him all this time, against immense odds."
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