September 8, 2008

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

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 serious concern regarding the detention and charges against comedian and poet Maung Thura (aka Zargana) and journalist Zaw Thet Htwe.

According to our information, on August 14, 2008, Zargana and Zaw Thet Htwe appeared at a hearing held at the Rangoon West District Court within the Insein prison precincts, where both were charged. Zargana was charged with seven offenses, including under section 505(b) of the Criminal Code, section 295 of the Criminal Code, section 17(2) of the Unlawful Associations Act, sections 32(b)/38 of the Electronic Act. Zah Thet Htwe was charged with two offenses under section 505(b) of the Criminal Code, sections 33(a)/38 of the Video Act and section 17(2) of the Unlawful Associations Act. If found guilty, Zargana and Thet Htwe could face up to fifteen years in prison.

Zaw Thet Htwe was arrested on June 13, 2008, while visiting his sick mother in the town of Minbu, central Burma, and transferred to an interrogation center in Yangon. His computer, mobile phone, and personal documents were also confiscated. Prior to his arrest, Thet Htwe had been working with Zargana and other leading Burmese figures to deliver aid and support to the victims of Cyclone Nargis. Zargana, also an opposition activist, was arrested on June 4, 2008 after police raided his home in Yangon. During the August 14 hearing, the prosecutor reportedly submitted photographs of Zargana, which the prosecution claimed demonstrate disaffection towards the state and government. The prosecution also submitted transcripts of interviews he gave to the BBC and Voice of America.

PEN American Center believes the charges brought against Zargana and Zaw Thet Htwe to be in direct violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights . We therefore respectfully call for their immediate and unconditional release and for all charges to be dropped, as well as for release of all others imprisoned in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

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 Kyaw Tint Swe
Ambassador to the United Nations
Permanent Mission of the Union of Myanmar to the United Nations
10 East 77th Street
New York, NY 10021
Fax: (212) 737-242

>> Back to Rapid Action