Buddy and Rose Fenster listen to their son’s voice for the first time since he was detained.
Buddy and Rose Fenster listen to their son’s voice for the first time since he was detained. (Fenster family)

It was the first time the couple had heard their son’s voice since the ordeal began.

Amid a COVID outbreak that has sickened 40 prisoners in Myanmar’s Insein Prison since early July, Frontier Myanmar Managing Editor and Huntington Woods native Danny Fenster, 37, was granted permission to speak to his parents, Rose and Buddy Fenster of Huntington Woods, on July 8, 46 days after he was detained.

Danny complained to his family he had fever and chest congestion, though the prison has not tested him for COVID. 

His parents’ physical and emotional exhaustion was evident as they sat before a laptop, listening to their son on an audio-only line of communication. It was the first time the couple had heard their son’s voice since the ordeal began. 

“We are so thankful for that call,” wrote Bryan Fenster, Danny’s brother, in a July 9 Facebook post. “It’s our hope these calls continue and they give Danny continued strength and hope, like they do for us. 

“Our fears were realized when he shared that he had been having heaviness in his chest and felt weak and extremely feverish earlier in the week. He was not tested but instead given a decongestant and sent on his way. 

Reuters reported that authorities at the jail have stopped sending prisoners to attend court hearings because of the outbreak. Fenster’s scheduled July 15 hearing went on remotely over Zoom, with his attorney listening in remotely from the U.S. Embassy there. His case was remanded until July 28.

“It’s the same thing over again,” Bryan told the JN. “He has yet to be charged with any crime.”

Bryan said he hoped his family would be granted another phone call this week, but responsiveness from prison officials is slowing down.  The fact that his family cannot get a confirmation if Danny has COVID, or why they will not release him now that he is sick, is “outrageous.”

According to Rep. Andy Levin, Danny has yet to be vaccinated or tested for COVID. 

“We are concerned the Fenster family’s weekly calls with Danny might be canceled,” Levin wrote in a July 15 statement. “I intend to press this possibility with our embassy in Yangon and the Burmese ambassador in D.C. as we work urgently to mitigate any such issues.”  

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Stacy Gittleman is an award-winning journalist and has been a contributing writer for the Detroit Jewish News for the last five years. Prior to moving to Metro Detroit in 2013, she was a columnist and feature writer for Gannett's Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY. She also manages social media pages for other local non-profit organizations including the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Contact her with breaking news and feature story ideas that impact Detroit's Jewish community at stacy.gittleman@yahoo.com