A court in military-ruled Myanmar on Friday sentenced detained U.S. journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in prison with hard labor after finding him guilty on several charges, including incitement for allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information.
Fenster, the managing editor of the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, was also found guilty of contacting illegal organizations and violating visa regulations, lawyer Than Zaw Aung said. He was sentenced to the maximum term on each charge and ordered to pay a 100,000 kyat ($56) fine.
Than Zaw Aung said Fenster wept in court after hearing the sentence and had not yet decided whether to appeal. He is the only foreign journalist to be convicted of a serious offense since the army seized power in February, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Fenster has been detained since May. He still faces two additional serious charges in a different court for allegedly violating the counterterrorism law and a statute covering treason and sedition.
“Everyone at Frontier is disappointed and frustrated at this decision. We just want to see Danny released as soon as possible so he can go home to his family,” Editor-in-Chief Thomas Kean said in a statement after the sentencing. “There is absolutely no basis to convict Danny of these charges.″
Fenster was detained at Yangon International Airport on May 24 as he was about to board a flight to go to the Detroit area in the United States to see his family.
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 that 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.
Fenster’s next challenge is the two additional charges that his lawyer said Monday had been filed in a different court in Yangon.