Fenster hearing continued after spike in Myanmar COVID numbers

As of Friday, it has been 54 days since former Daily Iberian reporter Danny Fenster was taken into custody at the airport in Yangon, Myanmar.

Still, there is no apparent movement towards seeing Fenster released even as Myanmar sees a rising number of COVID-19 cases surge across the country.

“In light of the COVID spike, Danny’s health remains a major concern,” U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, who represents Fenster’s home congressional district in Michigan, wrote in a statement Thursday after Fenster’s latest court hearing. “Our determined embassy and consular staff have continued their efforts to get him vaccinated without success.

During the hearing, Fenster’s case was again continued for two weeks, until July 28.

Beyond the concern over his physical health, Kevin said there are concerns that the increase in COVID in Myanmar could affect the work to get Fenster freed.

“As the COVID situation worsens, schedules and protocols are being disrupted,” Levin continued. “We are concerned that the Fenster family’s weekly calls with Danny might be cancelled, and that the crisis could upset plans to move his case along. I intend to press this possibility with our embassy in Yangon and the Burmese ambassador in DC as we work urgently to mitigate any such issues.”

Fenster’s brother, Bryan, said that the challenges Levin outlined are even harder for the family to deal with.

“Danny is unvaccinated,” Bryan Fenster posted to the Bring Danny Home Facebook page. “He told us he had COVID symptoms last week during our call and has yet to be tested. To make matters worse, Myanmar is on ‘holiday’ from July 17 to the 25. Everything is shutting down due to COVID ravaging the country. We fear movement will slow even further. Our weekly phone call? It has not been confirmed for this week and Friday is approaching in Myanmar.”

Bryan Fenster appealed to the military junta to release his brother.

“Look, we are scared,” he wrote. “As a family, we hope the military can find humanitarian grounds and please release him to his family so we can care for him.”

Danny Fenster, 37, was detained at the Yangon Airport on May 25 as he prepared to board a flight to Kuala Lampur on his way home for a surprise visit to his family in Detroit. His charging hearing came after 25 days in detention with no word on his treatment or condition from Myanmar officials.

The law Fenster is charged under, Section 505-A of the Myanmar Penal Code, was put into place on Feb. 14 as the ruling military junta cracked down on dissent after it seized power on Feb. 1. According to Frontier Myanmar, the news website and magazine where Fenster serves as managing editor, Section 505-A has been widely used against journalists, activists and social media users in the months since democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was deposed.

The charge carries a prison term of up to three years.

Dwayne Fatherree is the community editor for The Daily Iberian. He can be reached at dwayne.fatherree@daily-iberian.com.

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