Danny Fenster returns home after incarceration in Myanmar; 'A long time coming'

The first thing Danny Fenster is going to do when he gets home? "Get a shave and a haircut."

That's what he told reporters after walking into a hotel near JFK Airport in New York City, one of the final steps before coming home after months locked up in Myanmar.

"I still gotta get ahold of my family at Frontier Myanmar, we still got a lot of work to do," he added. "It's been a long time coming, a moment I've been imagining so intensely for so long. It's surpassing everything I could have imagined."

Fenster was alongside his family in New York City after landing at JFK Airport Tuesday morning. Also there was Bill Richardson, the man who successfully negotiated Fenster's freedom.

"It feels great. He's safe, that's all that we want," he said.

Richardson said that he met with the leader of Myanmar four times - two informal meetings and two formal meetings. It was part of a "humanitarian gesture" as his team brought public health aid and COVID-19 vaccines to the country. 

But in Michigan, in Fenster's hometown of Huntington Woods, the sign read "Welcome Home Danny."

It's been a busy couple of days for the Michigan-native and foreign journalist after he was sentenced to 11 years hard labor, then freed days later.

In his first conversation with the media since his freedom, he said he was doing alright. 

"I'm feeling alright physically, it's just the same privations that come with any form of incarceration, you just go a little stir crazy," Fenster said from the tarmac in Qatar. "The longer it drags on, the more worried you are it's never going to end."

"Happy to be on my way home. I'm incredibly thankful for everything Bill has done. Everything this foundation has done," said Fenster.

Richardson, a former U.S. diplomat that had negotiated for Fenster's release had acted separately from the U.S. government amid concerns that if the country had directly engaged with hostage negotiations with the military - the current force controlling the country - it would be recognizing it as a legitimate governing body.

The past couple of years have seen turmoil for Myanmar, which fell under the control of the military following the rule of a democratically-elected leader. 

It was in this climate that Fenster worked as the managing editor for the online magazine Frontier Myanmar. He was originally sentenced last week after charges of spreading false information and contacting illegal organizations. 

But on Monday, a surprise arrived when Fenster was freed. The details behind the release have not been released.