Richardson said in a statement that Fenster had been extradited to him in Myanmar and would return to the United States via Qatar within the next day and a half.
“This is the day that you hope will come when you perform this work,” Richardson said in a statement sent via email from his office. “We are so grateful that Danny will finally be able to reconnect with his loved ones who have been speaking for him all along, at tremendous odds.”
Richardson said he was negotiating Fenster’s release during a recent visit to Myanmar as he held face-to-face meetings with General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s military ruler.
Fenster, the editor-in-chief of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was convicted on Friday of spreading false or inflammatory information, contacting illegal organizations and violating visa rules.
Windows’ verdict was the harshest ever punishment among the seven journalists known to have been convicted since Myanmar’s military ousted the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in February.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned the decision, saying in a statement that it was “an unfair sentence by an innocent person”.
Frontier Myanmar editor – in – chief Thomas Kean welcomed the news of Fenster’s release, calling on the country’s military authorities to release all journalists still behind bars.
“Danny is one of many journalists in Myanmar who have been wrongfully arrested just for doing their job since the February coup,” he said.
According to the UN, at least 126 journalists, media officials or publishers have been detained by the military since February, and 47 have remained detained, 20 of them charged with crimes.
Of the seven journalists known to have been convicted, six are Myanmar nationals and four were released in a mass amnesty on October 21.
Richardson, who also served as governor of New Mexico and energy minister in the Clinton administration, has experience working as a kind of freelance diplomat.
He is best known for traveling to nations with which Washington has poor, if any, connections – such as North Korea – to gain freedom for detained Americans.
Recently, he has been involved in seeking freedom for U.S. citizens detained in Venezuela, another country with which Washington has tightened ties.
Richardson has a long history of involvement in Myanmar, starting in 1994, when he, as a member of the US Congress, met Suu Kyi at her home, where she had been under house arrest since 1989 under a former military government.
He last visited Myanmar in 2018 to advise on the crisis involving the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh after Myanmar’s military launched a brutal crackdown in 2017.
In an interview with The Associated Press after his recent visit to Myanmar, Richardson had said that his talks there had focused on facilitating humanitarian aid to the country, in particular the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines,
He said his staff had been in contact with Fenster’s family, and when asked if there was hope for Danny Fenster’s release, he replied: “There is always hope. Ask no more.”
Shawn Crispin, Southeast Asia’s representative on the Committee to Protect Journalists, said Fenster “should never have been jailed or convicted of false accusations in the first place.”
“Myanmar’s military regime must stop using journalists as peasants in their cynical game and release all the other journalists who are still languishing behind bars on false charges,” Crispin added.
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
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