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Comedian Zargana's prison sentence reduced to 35 years

(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) has learned that the 59-year prison sentence handed down to leading comedian and poet Zargana has been commuted by 24 years. He must now serve 35 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 Burma 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 , on 13 February 2009, the Rangoon Division Court reduced Zargana's prison term by 24 years. He has therefore to 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 Burma.

Maung Thura, aged 47, best known by his stage name, "Zargana" (also transcribed as "Zarganar"), was sentenced to 45 years in prison on 21 November 2008 for violating the Electronics Act, and received an additional 14-year prison term on 27 November for offences under four sections of the criminal code - 17/2, 32 (b), 295 (a) and 505 (b) - for his peaceful opposition activities, bringing the total sentence to 59 years in prison

Zargana was arrested on the evening of 4 June after leading a private relief effort to deliver aid to victims of Cyclone Nargis, which struck on 2 May. He is believed to have been 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.

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