AP journalist Thein Zaw released from detention in Myanmar

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AP journalist Thein Zaw, center, waves outside Insein prison after his release Wednesday, March 24, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar. Thein Zaw, a journalist for The Associated Press who was arrested last month while covering a protest against the coup in Myanmar, was released from detention on Wednesday. (AP Photo)

YANGON – Thein Zaw, a journalist for The Associated Press who was arrested more than three weeks ago while covering a protest against the coup in Myanmar, was released from detention on Wednesday.

Visibly thinner than before his arrest, Thein Zaw waved and smiled to photographers as he left Yangon’s Insein Prison, notorious for decades for holding political prisoners.

His brothers and best friend took him home, which is an area of Yangon that has been placed under martial law. He told the AP that his mother told him through tears: “We thought we'd never see you again.”

Thein Zaw had earlier said that the judge in his case announced at a court hearing that all charges against him were being dropped because he was doing his job at the time of his arrest.

He said that while in prison he was “worried every day,” and last week he marked his 33rd birthday behind bars.

Despite his relief, he said he was concerned about the many journalists who remain imprisoned.

“Thanks to all who tried so hard for my release," he said. "But one thing that upsets me is that there are some people who are still inside, and I hope that they can get out as soon as possible.”

Thein Zaw's father, Ba Win, greeted him with shampoo because it is local custom that people returning from prison must wash their hair before entering the house. His parents prepared pork curry and fish curry for his first meal at home.