Update #4 to RAN 31/08 18 February 2009
The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International has learned that the fifty-nine year prison sentence handed down to leading comedian and poet Zargana has been commuted by twenty-four years. He must now serve thirty-five years in prison for his peaceful opposition activities and criticism of the government. International PEN continues to demand the immediate and unconditional release of Zargana, and of all those currently detained in Myanmar in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, protecting the right to freedom of expression.
According to the news agency Mizzima.com, on 13 February 2009 the Rangoon Division Court reduced Zargana’s prison term by twenty-four years. He has therefore to serve the remaining thirty-five 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 of Myanmar.
Maung Thura, aged 47, best known by his stage name, “Zargana” (also transcribed as ‘Zarganar’), was sentenced to forty-five years imprisonment on 21 November 2008 for violating the Electronics Act, and received an additional fourteen year prison term on 27 November 2008 for offences under four sections of the criminal code—17/2, 32 (b), 295 (a) and 505 (b), for his peaceful opposition activities, making a total of fifty-nine years.
Zargana was arrested on the evening of 4 June 2008 after leading a private relief effort to deliver aid to victims of Cyclone Nargis which struck on 2 May 2008. He is believed to be sentenced for his outspoken criticism of the government’s slow response to the cyclone, and his opposition activities. Many other opposition activists have been condemned by the Burmese government to harsh sentences in recent months, including journalist Zaw Thet Hwe, poet Saw Wei and musician Win Maw (see previous alerts).
Send your appeals:
• Demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Zargana, and of all those currently detained in Myanmar in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, protecting the right to freedom of expression.
Senior General Than Shwe
Chairman, State Peace and Development Council
c/o Ministry of Defence, Naypyitaw, Union of Myanmar
Salutation: Dear General
Appeals to Myanmar (Burma) Embassies:
WiPC strongly recommends that you copy your appeal to the Burmese embassy in your country asking them to forward it to the Burmese authorities and welcoming any comments.
Letters to the press:
PEN members may consider writing letters to their national newspapers expressing alarm at events in Burma, and highlighting Zargana’s case to illustrate the many years of repression in the country.
**Please contact the PEN WiPC office in London if sending appeals after 18 March 2009**
For further information please contact Cathy McCann at PEN International Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: firstname.lastname@example.org