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Japanese journalist detained in Myanmar departs for Japan

Yuki Kitazumi raises a three-finger salute, a symbol of Myanmar's anti-coup movement, in this undated photo. (From Yuki Kitazumi's Facebook page/Kyodo)

YANGON (Kyodo) -- A Japanese freelance journalist detained by security forces in Myanmar in mid-April and accused of supporting protests against the military coup was released Friday and is on his way back to Japan.

    Japanese Embassy staff met with Yuki Kitazumi, 45, at Yangon international airport and found him in good health, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters.

    The journalist was arrested in Yangon on April 18 and a military spokesman said Thursday night he had been moved from prison to a police facility.

    According to a state-run newspaper on Friday, Kitazumi had been indicted for supporting the anti-coup civil disobedience movement and riots, and for not complying with visa regulations.

    The Information Team of the State Administration Council, the military junta's top decision-making body, said the decision to release Kitazumi was made "in consideration of cordial relations between Myanmar and Japan up to now and in view of future bilateral relations, and upon the request of the Japanese government special envoy on Myanmar's national reconciliation," according to state-run TV on Thursday night.

    Before Kitazumi was freed, Motegi said Friday morning that the journalist would be released and return to Japan by the end of Friday at the earliest.

    "It was the result of efforts made by Ambassador Ichiro Maruyama and other people who tried to seek the early release (of the Japanese journalist) through various channels," Motegi said at the meeting of the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee.

    The journalist, who previously worked at the Tokyo-based Nikkei business daily, had covered anti-government protests and posted information deemed to be critical of the military on social media.

    Kitazumi had been detained previously while covering an anti-military protest on Feb. 26, but he was released later in the day.

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