A US journalist detained in Myanmar has been charged with “terrorism” and sedition, and could face life in prison if convicted, according to his lawyer.
Danny Fenster, who was arrested as he was leaving the country in May, was hit with the two new charges under the Counter-Terrorism Act and Myanmar’s Penal Code, his lawyer Than Zaw Aung said on Wednesday.
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The counterterrorism law criminalises contacts with officially designated “terrorist” groups and carries a prison term of three and seven years.
The other charge under Section 124(A) of the Penal Code is usually referred to as treason and carries a penalty of seven to 20 years of imprisonment.
The new charges against Fenster, 37, come days after former United States diplomat and hostage negotiator Bill Richardson met Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in the capital Naypyidaw. Min Aung Hlaing seized power in a coup on February 1, detaining Aung San Suu Kyi and senior officials from her elected government.
Fenster, the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, an online news magazine based in Yangon, is already on trial for allegedly encouraging dissent against the military, unlawful association and breaching immigration law.
His trial is closed to the press and the public, and details have been relayed only by his lawyer.
It remains unclear what exactly he is accused of doing, despite testimony by several prosecution witnesses.
The judge in the case ruled on Monday that the prosecution had provided enough evidence for the trial to continue.
So far, the prosecution appears to be trying to link Fenster to an as-yet-unspecified offence allegedly carried out by his former employer, the online news service Myanmar Now.
Recent prosecution witnesses said the Information Ministry had records that Fenster was still working for Myanmar Now when he was arrested.
But according to Myanmar Now and his current employer, Frontier Myanmar, he quit the former job in July last year and joined the latter company a month after that.
Fenster’s lawyer told The Associated Press news agency that he had submitted documents and other evidence to the court to prove Fenster is a staff member of Frontier Myanmar.
Fenster’s initial three cases are being heard at a different Yangon court from where the new charges have been filed.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup.
More than 1,200 people have been killed by security forces in a crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.
The press has also been squeezed as the military tries to tighten control over the flow of information, throttling internet access and revoking the licences of local media outlets.