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Writers ring in New Year with call to free Liu Xiaobo

Doctorow, DeLillo, Appiah, others denounce "shameful" verdict, demand Liu's immediate release

(PEN American Center/IFEX) - New York City, December 31, 2009 - E.L. Doctorow, Don DeLillo, A.M. Homes, Edward Albee and dozens of other members of PEN American Center staged a New Year's Eve rally this morning on the steps of the New York Public Library to protest the imprisonment of writer Liu Xiaobo in China.

Liu, one of China's most acclaimed writers and a member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, was sentenced on Christmas day to an 11-year prison term for "inciting subversion of state power" in connection with his writings and with Charter 08, a petition he co-authored and circulated last year. The rally, held on a wintry morning on the eve of PEN's 50th year as the leading voice for persecuted writers around the world, brought both denunciations of what PEN American Center President Anthony Appiah called the "shameful official verdict" of the Beijing court and spirited calls for action in support of China's leading dissident voice.

"We want to express and explain our outrage, to commit ourselves to working for Liu's release, and to urge all those in this country and around the world who care about free expression to join us," Appiah announced in his opening remarks (available at http://www.pen.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/4461/prmID/172 ).

"Liu Xiaobo has been condemned to 11 years in prison for seven published sentences," he continued. "These sentences consisted of just 224 Chinese characters. In their official verdict, the Beijing Court cited the exact passages from Liu's writings that were judged to be subversive."

"Today we are going to read all seven sentences," Appiah declared.

Several of PEN's leading voices followed Appiah to the microphone to read those sentences. A.M. Homes, Edward Albee, Victoria Redel, Jessica Hagedorn, Don DeLillo, Honor Moore, and E.L. Doctorow read selections from Liu's poetry as well, interspersed with chilling passages from last week's verdict.

"Public Security searched Liu Xiaobo's residence and found the tools that Liu Xiaobo used to write the documents and to send them to websites," A.M. Homes quoted from the court document. "Two notebook computers, one desktop computer, and one copy of a printed document 'Charter 08-Request for Comments'."

Victoria Redel and Jessica Hagedorn read a litany of Liu's alleged offenses, describing how an investigating officer had "found and downloaded" the offending passages on web pages that had received, respectively, 402, 748, 512, 57, and 488 hits - "crimes," as Honor Moore recited from a later passage, of a "major criminal" who "should be severely punished according to law."

"This court believes that the defendant Liu Xiaobo, with the purpose of inciting the overthrow of our country's people's democratic dictatorship system and our socialist system, used the Internet to distribute his document because of its rapid speed, great scope, large social influence and the attention which the people pay to it," Moore read.

Against this backdrop of grim, bureaucratic prose, Edward Albee, Don DeLillo, and E.L. Doctorow brought Liu Xiaobo's own words to life, reading three poems Liu had written to his wife while serving a previous three-year sentence of "re-education through labor" in the late 1990s.

Click here for the complete text of the PEN American Center press release
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