BANGKOK – An army-run Myanmar court sentenced US journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in prison on Friday after finding him guilty on several charges, including inciting the dissemination of false or provocative information.
Fenster, editor-in-chief of online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was also found guilty of contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations, lawyer Than Zaw Aung said.
Window has been detained since May and has yet to face two further charges in another court of alleged violation of the anti-terrorism law and a statute covering treason and sedition.
Fenster was detained at Yangon International Airport on May 24 as he was about to board a flight to the Detroit area of the United States to see his family.
He is the only foreign journalist to have been convicted of a serious crime since the army took power in February, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The military-installed government has severely cracked down on press freedom, closing virtually all critical outlets and arresting about 100 journalists, about 30 of whom remain in prison. Some of the closed outlets continued to operate unlicensed, posting online as their staff members avoid arrest.
The takeover of the army was met with widespread peaceful protests that were put down with lethal force. The Association of Assistance to Political Prisoners detailed the deaths of more than 1,200 civilians, as well as about 10,000 arrests. Armed resistance has since spread and UN experts and other observers fear that the incipient insurrection could lead to civil war.
Fenster’s next challenge is the two additional charges his lawyer said Monday had been filed in another Yangon court.
Than Zaw Aung said one of the new charges falls under a section of the anti-terrorism law that has been punishable by 10 years to life in prison. The military-installed government has said it will apply the law strictly in cases involving opposition organizations deemed “terrorist”.
The other charge under the Criminal Code is usually referred to as treason or sedition and carries a prison sentence of seven to 20 years.
Hearings on the three original charges took place at the Insein Prison Court in Yangon, where the window is being held. They were closed to the press and the public. The proceedings came from Fenster’s attorney.