Danny Fenster
Danny Fenster. (Bryan Fenster)

The Fenster family here had been hopeful that Danny would be included among the political prisoners that were supposed to be freed in Myanmar in mid-October.

On day 164 of his pretrial detainment in a Myanmar prison, Frontier Myanmar managing editor and Huntington Woods native Danny Fenster, 37, faced new charges and was denied bail at his latest hearing according to reports from the Associated Press and CNN.

The Fenster family here had been hopeful that Danny would be included among the political prisoners that were supposed to be freed in Myanmar in mid-October. The military government reversed its decision to free thousands of prisoners -—including children — and according to a prisoner advocacy group, only a few hundred were released.

On Nov. 2, the Facebook group Bring Danny Home wrote a hopeful message on the eve of his latest hearing that perhaps a new judge on the case “would have the courage to do the right thing” and see his immediate release.

However, Fenster now faces a third charge under Section 13(1) of Myanmar’s immigration act according to his lawyer Than Zaw Aung. The law criminalizes illegal entry into the country, overstaying a visa or permit, or violating the conditions of a stay. It is unclear why he has been charged with the new offense. From now on, hearings in Fenster’s case will take place daily, according to Aung.

On Nov. 2, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson visited Myanmar and junta leader Min Aung Hlaing on a humanitarian mission to discuss delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, medical supplies and other public health needs. Richardson is known for his decades of tactical negotiation work in attempts to free Americans being held prisoner abroad, including North Korea, which also raised hopes that he could intervene in Fenster’s plight.

At his Oct. 7 hearing, Fenster was charged by the military junta government of 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act, though it closely related to the original Section 505A criminalizing dissent charges, which carry a maximum three-year jail sentence.

The military junta has imprisoned a total of hundreds of journalists in Myanmar since the Feb. 1 coup. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the junta freed 15 journalists on Oct. 18, mainly citizens of Myanmar, but there are over 20 journalists that remain behind bars.

Danny’s brother Bryan Fenster said at this time the family was not releasing statements or granting interviews with the press.

Fenster was detained by the military in Myanmar on May 24, 2021, moments before he was to fly from Yangon to Detroit to see his family for the first time in over three years.

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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