Danny Fenster, an American journalist who spent nearly six months in a military-run prison in Myanmar, said he felt “extremely blessed” to be back home in suburban Detroit following his tumultuous stint behind bars.
As he returned to Huntington Woods on Tuesday night, Fenster, 37, was hailed by relatives and friends. He was sentenced to 11 years of hard labour in Myanmar last week, but was released on Monday after being handed over to Bill Richardson, a former US diplomat who assisted in his release.
He had been detained since his arrest on May 24 at Yangon International Airport.
“I feel really blessed to be home; I can’t believe the amount of effort that was required to make this happen – tremendous gratitude,” said Fenster, who arrived in the United States aboard a flight that landed in New York earlier Tuesday.
Since the Myanmar military deposed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratic government in February, more than 100 journalists, media officials, and publishers have been jailed. Fenster is the managing editor of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar.
He was found guilty of disseminating false or provocative information, making contact with unlawful organisations, and breaking visa rules. Fenster heard days before his conviction that he had been charged with further offences, putting him in danger of receiving a life sentence.
Fenster, who is now bearded and shaggy-haired, claimed he spent his time in prison “reading a lot.” There was a lot of thinking and staring at walls.”
During his sentence, he said biweekly visits from his wife kept him sane. She is still in Myanmar, but she is anticipated to return to the United States before Thanksgiving.
“She came every other week when they let her, which was every other week,” he claimed. “She gave a huge food delivery to me and we wrote each other love notes.”
Fenster claimed that his release would not have been possible without the assistance of his older brother, Bryan, who worked relentlessly with U.S. Representative Andy Levin of Michigan and others to achieve his release.
He stated of his brother, “We’ve always been really close.”
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