February 27, 2009

Senior General Than Shwe

Chairman, State Peace and Development Council
c/o Ministry of Defense
Union of Myanmar

Your Excellency,

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 continued concern regarding the imprisonment of comedian and poet Maung Thura (aka Zargana).

According to our information, on February 13, 2009, the Rangoon Division Court reduced Zargana’s 59-year prison term by 24 years. He still must serve the remaining 35 years in prison. Zargana’s relatives have announced that they will file an appeal against his conviction before the Supreme Court. He is currently serving his term at the Myitkyina prison, in the Kachin state, northern Myanmar. Zargana was arrested on the evening of June 4, 2008, after leading a private relief effort to deliver aid to victims of Cyclone Nargis. He is believed to have been sentenced for his outspoken criticism of the government’s slow response to the cyclone, as well as his peaceful opposition activities.

Although PEN American Center is glad to hear that the government has begun to commute the harsh prison sentence imposed upon Zargana, we believe his conviction to be part of wide crackdown against dissent in direct violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression. We therefore renew our call for his immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all individuals currently detained in Myanmar solely for the peaceful expression of their political views.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Program

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

>> Back to Rapid Action