September 11, 2008

Senior General Than Shwe
Chairman, State Peace and Development Council
c/o Ministry of Defence
Union of Myanmar

Nyan Win
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Union of Myanmar

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our extreme concern for the health of veteran journalist and pro-democracy activist Win Tin.

According to our information, Win Tin, aged 78, is suffering from acute asthma which is preventing him from sleeping and eating properly. Throughout his detention he has suffered from heart disease, dental problems and spondylitis. On January 22, 2008, Win Tin had a hernia operation at Rangoon General Hospital, and in late June 2008, a relative visited him in prison and found him thin and weak.

Win Tin, former editor-in-chief of Hanthawati, and Vice President of the Journalist’s and Writer’s Association of Burma, was arrested in July 1989 and originally sentenced to three years in prison for harboring an “offender for whom a warrant had been issued”—charges that were apparently fabricated. In 1992 he was sentenced to an additional 11 years in prison for a variety of offenses linked to his opposition activities. In March 1996 he was among 21 Insein Prison detainees who were tried for having published a clandestine magazine inside the prison and possessing radio sets. For this he received another seven years, bringing his total sentence to 20 years. He is not due to be freed until July 2009.

PEN American Center is seriously alarmed by Win Tin’s deteriorating health and considers his conviction for his legitimate opposition activities to be in violation of his right to freedom of expression and association, as protected by the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights. We therefore respectfully call on the authorities to provide him with necessary medical treatment and demand his immediate and unconditional release on humanitarian grounds.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: His Excellency U Myint Lwin
Charge d’ Affaires
Embassy of the Union of Myanmar to the United States
2300 S St. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 332-4351

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