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Concerns for health of imprisoned writer Zargana

(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN is alarmed by reports that imprisoned leading comedian and poet Zargana is in poor health and has not been given full access to medical care and family visits.

Zargana is serving thirty-five years in prison for his peaceful opposition activities and criticism of the government. International PEN seeks assurances of Zargana's well-being, and urges that he is given full access to the specialist medical care he requires and is allowed family visits. PEN also continues to call for Zargana's immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, protecting the right to freedom of expression.

According to International PEN's information, Zargana, aged 48, recently collapsed at the Myitkyina prison, Kachin state, northern Myanmar, where he is being held. He is said to be suffering from heart problems, jaundice and a stomach ulcer. Zargana was taken to Myitkyina Hospital where he underwent some tests, although the specialist medical care he requires is reportedly not available at this hospital. Furthermore, Zargana has been denied full access to family visits, and there are serious concerns for his well-being.

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 for 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.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to authorities:
- expressing serious concerns for Zargana's well-being, and urging that he is given full access to specialist medical care and is allowed family visits as a matter of urgency
- 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

APPEALS TO:

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.

Please copy appeals to the source if possible. Please contact the PEN WiPC office in London if sending appeals after 27 May 2009.

For further information, see "Irrawaddy" magazine article on Zargana's health:
http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=15530

For the statement by the Board of International PEN on the sentencing of Zargana, issued in November 2008, see: http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/go/news/board-protests

For the BBC's country profile on Myanmar (Burma), go to:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1300003.stm

Updates the Zargana case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/100937

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