Danny Fenster
Danny Fenster. (Bryan Fenster)

Imprisoned journalist faces another trial on terrorism charges. 

The military court of Myanmar on Friday, Nov. 12, sentenced journalist and Huntington Woods native Danny Fenster to 11 years in prison after having been detained and enduring multiple hearings since he was arrested on May 24 at the Yangon International Airport.  

According to newswire reports, Fenster’s lawyer Than Zaw Aung said at a court hearing inside Insein Prison that Fenster was found guilty of three charges brought against him by the junta government that took over Myanmar in a violent coup on Feb. 1. Since then, hundreds of journalists have been imprisoned as the country cracked down on media outlets, and 30 still remain behind bars.  

Fenster was convicted under section 505-A of the Penal Code, section 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act and section 13(1) of the Immigration Act. He received a three-year sentence for the 505-A charge, three years for the 17(1) charge and five years for the 13(1) charge, as well as a $100,000 fine.  

According to CNN, these charges include visa breaches, unlawful association with an illegal group and incitement under section 505a of Myanmar’s Penal Code, which makes it a crime to publish or circulate comments that “cause fear” or spread “false news.” Fenster was also given a fine in local currency equivalent to $50. 

Fenster, who was in the country working as managing editor for the online news magazine Frontier Myanmar, still must face trial on charges of sedition and terrorism, which could carry a lifetime sentence.  

In a statement released on its Facebook page, Frontier Myanmar said the three charges were based on the false allegation that Fenster was working for banned media outlet Myanmar Now. Danny had resigned from Myanmar Now in July 2020 and joined Frontier Myanmar the following month, so at the time of his arrest in May 2021 he had been working with Frontier for more than nine months.  

The court disregarded a significant amount of evidence of his employment at Frontier, including tax and social security records and testimony from a Frontier employee.  

“There is absolutely no basis to convict Danny of these charges. His legal team clearly demonstrated to the court that he had resigned from Myanmar Now and was working for Frontier from the middle of last year,” said Thomas Kean, Frontier Myanmar’s editor-in-chief.   

“Everyone at Frontier is disappointed and frustrated at this decision. We just want to see Danny released as soon as possible so he can go home to his family.”

The Detroit Jewish News is working on a full-length feature about Danny Fenster. Look for it in the Dec. 2 issue.

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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