Journalist Danny Fenster returns home to Huntington Woods
HUNTINGTON WOODS, Michigan – US journalist Danny Fenster, released after nearly six months in prison in military-ruled Burma, said he felt “incredibly lucky” to be back home in the suburbs of Detroit after its uncertain period behind bars.
Fenster, 37, was greeted by family and friends on Tuesday evening as he returned to Huntington Woods. He was sentenced last week to 11 years of forced labor in Myanmar, but was handed over to former US diplomat Bill Richardson on Monday, who helped negotiate his release.
He had been in detention since his arrest at Yangon International Airport on May 24.
âI feel incredibly lucky to be home, I can’t believe the amount of effort that has gone into making this happen – immense gratitude,â said Fenster, who returned to the United States over early Tuesday on a flight that landed in New York.
Fenster, editor-in-chief of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, is one of more than 100 journalists, media officials or editors detained since the Burmese military toppled the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in February.
He was convicted of spreading false or inflammatory information, contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations. Days before his sentencing, Fenster learned he had been charged with additional offenses that put him on the line of life imprisonment.
Now bearded and unkempt hair, Fenster said he spent his time in prison doing “a lot of reading.” Lots of time sitting thinking and looking at the walls. “
He said his wife’s bi-weekly visits kept him sane during his incarceration. She remains in Myanmar, but is expected to be back in the United States before Thanksgiving.
âShe came over when they left her, which was every other week, and delivered me a huge package of food and we wrote love letters to each other,â he said.
Fenster said his release would not have been possible without the help of his older brother Bryan, saying he worked tirelessly with U.S. Representative Andy Levin from Michigan and others to secure his release.
âWe’ve always been incredibly close,â he said of his brother.