Bangkok: A court in military-ruled Myanmar on Friday has found US journalist Danny Fenster guilty on multiple counts and sentenced him to 11 years in prison. He was found guilty of spreading false or inflammatory information, contacting illegal organisations and violating visa regulations, said his lawyer Than Zaw Aung.
Fenster, the managing editor of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, has been detained since May. He was intercepted at Yangon International Airport on May 24 when about to board a flight to the Detroit area in America to see his family.
There are two additional charges that await him in a different court, and they include violating the counter-terrorism law and a statute covering treason and sedition.
He is the only foreign journalist to be convicted of a serious crime since the army seized power in February, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The military-installed government has cracked down hard on press freedom, shutting virtually all critical outlets and arresting about 100 journalists, roughly 30 of whom remain in jail. Some of the closed outlets have continued operating without a license, publishing online as their staff members dodge arrest.
The army takeover was met by widespread peaceful protests but they were put down with lethal force. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners has detailed the deaths of more than 1,200 civilians, in addition to about 10,000 arrests. Armed resistance has since spread, and U.N. experts and others observers fear the incipient insurgency can slide into civil war.
Than Zaw Aung said one of the new charges comes under a section of the Counter-terrorism Act that is punishable by from 10 years to life in prison. The military-installed government has said it would apply the law harshly in cases involving opposition organizations it has deemed to be 'terrorist'. The other charge under the penal code is usually referred to as treason or sedition, and carries a penalty of seven to 20 years' imprisonment.
The hearings on the original three charges have been held at the court in Yangon's Insein Prison, where Fenster is jailed in closed doors without access for the press and public. Accounts of the proceedings have come from Fenster's lawyer.
(Based on PTI feed with minor edits)