Posted: 12 October 2011
The Burmese poet Zarganar, an honorary member of English PEN, has been released today as part of an amnesty for approximately 2,000 political prisoners.
Zarganar (Maung Thura) was handed a 59 year sentence in 2008 after criticising the Burmese junta's poor aid response to Cyclone Nargis.
Since his imprisonment, English PEN has campaigned relentlessly for Zarganar's release, with a rally in Trafalgar Square and ‘poetry protests' at the Burmese Embassy in London. PEN activists have sent thousands of letters and cards to Zarganar during his imprisonment, and the organisation co-hosted the first ever Burmese Arts Festival in 2010 at which Zarganar's work was featured. In 2009 the inaugural PEN Pinter Prize for an International Writer of Courage was awarded to Zarganar by the poet Tony Harrison.
Salil Tripathi, a trustee of English PEN and chair of its Writers in Prison Committee, said:
We are delighted by the release of Zarganar and others who had been imprisoned in Burma because of what they had written or said. They should never have been in prison in the first place. However, this prisoner amnesty does not appear to be linked to any long term political reform in Burma. The British Government, the international community, and companies that do business with the Burmese regime must now demand measures to protect free expression and human rights.
Next Friday, English PEN and the Free Burma VJ campaign will be holding another poetry protest in London, as part of a worldwide reading of Burma's silenced poets. Readers, writers and activists including the poet Ruth Padel will gather outside the Burmese Embassy at 19a Charles Street, London W1J 5DX at 12 midday on Friday 21st October 2011. For more information visit www.englishpen.org.
Source: English PEN
Categories: Poetry News