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Myanmar releases US journalist Nathan Maung, allegedly tortured in prison

Nathan Maung is the co-founder and editor of Myanmar’s online news site Kamayut Media and spent more than two months in the infamous Insein Prison, north of Yangon.

He was arrested alongside co-founder and producer Hanthar Nyein, a Myanmar national, as security forces raided their offices in early March. Sources close to the couple previously told CNN Business that they suffered two weeks of torture while being held in an interrogation center after their arrest.
US journalist Danny Fenster, who was barred from boarding a flight from Myanmar on May 24, remains in detention. Officials at the U.S. Embassy have not been allowed to contact him and Fenster has not been charged with a felony, according to family members.

On Monday, Nathan Maung’s lawyer Tin Zar Oo said the charges against his client were dropped after the police chief withdrew the case. He was initially accused of disseminating false information.

Tin Zar Oo said she did not know why the charges were dropped, but said: “The bottom line is that the US Embassy is claiming the rights of their citizen and we have prepared all the documents for him. . I think Nathan Maung was released because of good cooperation between the embassy and the lawyers, ”she said.

Like many journalists since the coup, Nathan Maung and Hanthar Nyein have been charged with crimes under section 505a of Myanmar’s penal code – a law amended by the military that makes it a crime punishable by three years of prison posting or broadcasting comments “causing fear”, spreading “fake news” or inciting government employees.

Although the charges against Nathan Maung have been dropped, Hanthar Nyein remains in prison on charges of spreading false information. Lawyer Tin Zar Oo said she believed he would face further charges, but this was not confirmed.

Tin Zar Oo said Nathan Maung was “happy” to be released but was bittersweet as his colleague Hanthar Nyein was still in prison.

“He will no longer be allowed to stay in Myanmar, so I saw him with a sad face,” she said. “He told us he would do whatever he can for the release of Hanthar.”

CNN Business has contacted the Burmese military for comment, but has not received a response.

Nathan Maung was scheduled to leave the country at 7.40 a.m. local time on a ticket arranged by the U.S. Embassy and his destination would be Washington, DC, Tin Zar Oo said. He was transferred from Insein Prison to a Yangon police station on Monday, where he took a Covid test and was allowed to meet with his family who live in Myanmar, she said.

A State Department official told CNN Business on Monday, “We are monitoring the matter very closely but have nothing new to share at this time.”

Under the command of the coup leader, General Min Aung Hlaing, the Burmese army seized power on February 1, sparking months of civil protests and deadly clashes. On Tuesday, more than 860 people were killed by junta-led security forces and at least 6,046 have been arrested since the coup, according to the defense group Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners. Among them are protesters, activists, journalists, celebrities, government officials, as well as children and passers-by.

The junta also targeted the press in an attempt to stifle information, suspending licenses for independent media houses, raiding media offices and issuing arrest warrants for journalists.

Many media professionals have been forced into exile abroad or have fled to rebel-controlled areas in the jungle. Those who remain in the cities have gone into hiding and exchanged safe houses every few days to avoid being arrested.

At least 87 journalists have been arrested, 51 of whom are still in detention, ASEAN reporting documented.

Nathan Maung’s release came as the trial of fallen civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi opened on Monday. The capital court, Naypyidaw, heard the first criminal cases against the ousted leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, involving three counts, including that of Suu Kyi who allegedly violated a communications law by importing and using a number of walkie-talkie radios and violated coronavirus restrictions during last year’s election campaign.

The court also heard a case against ousted President U Win Myint for alleged violation of the country’s disaster management laws.

The trial will resume Tuesday for Suu Kyi on two more counts, while the most serious counts against her, corruption and violations of the State Secrets Act are yet to be dated. trial.

Analysts described the court proceedings as a “show trial” and “a political spectacle aimed at discrediting Aung San Suu Kyi and the democratic opposition.”


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