U.S. Journalist Danny Fenster 'Incredibly Fortunate' to Be Home After Myanmar Imprisonment

U.S. journalist Danny Fenster said that he feels "incredibly fortunate" to be home in Michigan after spending nearly six months behind bars in military-ruled Myanmar, the Associated Press reported. His prospects for freedom were looking increasingly dim after being sentenced last week to 11 years of hard labor in Myanmar, but former U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson helped negotiate his release so that Fenster was able to arrive back in the U.S. Tuesday.

"I feel incredibly fortunate to be home, I can't believe the amount of effort that went into it that was necessary to make this happen–overwhelming gratitude," Fenster said.

The 37-year-old, who is the managing editor of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York Tuesday and reunited with his mother, brother and father. He traveled back to Huntington Woods, Michigan, and was greeted by more family and friends Tuesday night, the AP reported.

Fenster was convicted last week of spreading false or inflammatory information, contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations. Only days before, he was hit with two extra criminal charges relating to terrorism and treason offenses.

Myanmar's government said that Fenster was "pardoned" and then released on "humanitarian grounds," BBC reported.

For Richardson, who has also served as governor of New Mexico and a United Nations ambassador, helping to secure Fenster's release was the latest victory in his history of diplomatic relations with some of the world's more rogue or shunned regimes.

"I think there was a certain amount of trust between myself and the commanding general," Richardson said Tuesday, speaking about Myanmar's ruler Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. "I treated him with respect, he treated me with respect."

Richardson said that it "feels great to get Danny back home. It's worth the effort, worth everything we did."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Danny Fenster Back Home
U.S. journalist Danny Fenster said that he feels “incredibly fortunate” to be home in Michigan after spending nearly six months behind bars in military-ruled Myanmar. Fenster speaks at a news conference at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York November 16, 2021, after arriving in the United States following a six month detention in Myanmar. Craig Ruttle/AP Photo

Fenster had been in detention since his arrest at Yangon International Airport on May 24.

He is one of more than 100 journalists, media officials or publishers who have been detained since the Myanmar military ousted the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in February.

Now bearded and shaggy-haired, Fenster said he passed his time in jail by doing "a lot of reading. A lot of sitting around thinking and staring at walls."

He said bi-weekly visits from his wife kept him sane during his incarceration. She remains in Myanmar, but is expected to be back in the U.S. before Thanksgiving.

"She came when they let her which was every other week and delivered a huge food parcel to me and we wrote each other love letters," he said.

Fenster said his release would not have been possible without help from his older brother, Bryan, saying he worked tirelessly with U.S. Representative Andy Levin of Michigan and others to secure his release.

"We've always been incredibly close," he said of his brother.

Fenster Reunites With Family
American journalist Danny Fenster was sentenced in Myanmar last week to 11 years of hard labor, but he was handed over Monday to former U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson, who helped negotiate the release. Fenster, second from left, is greeted by his brother, Bryan Fenster, left, his mother, Rose Fenster, second from right, and his father, Buddy Fenster, after arriving at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. Seth Wenig/AP Photo