An American journalist jailed for six months by Myanmar’s military rulers arrived back in the United States on Tuesday, one day after he was pardoned and released from prison.
“It feels incredible,” said Danny Fenster, hugging his parents after landing at New York’s JFK airport at around 8:00 am (1300 GMT).
Fenster, 37, arrived with former US diplomat Bill Richardson, who helped facilitate his release.
Looking gaunt and unshaven after his ordeal in captivity, Fenster said his return home had been “a long time coming.”
“It’s a moment that I have been imagining so intensely for so long,” he told reporters. It surpasses everything I imagined.”
Fenster was handed an 11-year sentence last week for incitement, unlawful association and breaching visa rules.
He was freed on Monday, a day before he was to face terror and sedition charges that could have seen him jailed for life, and flew to Doha.
Myanmar’s military has squeezed the press since taking power in a February coup, arresting dozens of journalists critical of its crackdown, which has killed more than 1,200 people according to a local monitoring group.
Fenster had been working at Frontier Myanmar, a local outlet in the Southeast Asian country, for around a year and was arrested as he headed home to see his family in May.
The junta said Fenster was pardoned and released on “humanitarian grounds,” ending 176 days spent in a colonial-era prison where many of Myanmar’s most famous dissidents have been held.
His release was secured following “face-to-face negotiations” between Richardson and junta chief Min Aung Hlaing.