LONDON, 15 November 2010 - The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International is delighted at news that Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the Burmese National League for Democracy, has been released from house arrest.
"The global community of writers within PEN International joyfully welcomes Aung San Suu Kyi as she appears from behind the high walls of her home in Rangoon," says Marian Botsford Fraser, Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) chairperson.
Suu Kyi has been named an honorary PEN member by several PEN centres around the world and the organisation has engaged in a sustained campaign for her release over the past two decades.
"The momentous events taking place in Burma today have a special resonance for the Writers in Prison Committee as we commemorate our 50th anniversary on Monday 15 November, our International Day of the Imprisoned Writer," adds Botsford Fraser. The WiPC has also named Suu Kyi as one of its 50 "emblematic cases" from the last half-century.
PEN International calls attention to the more than 2,000 other political prisoners currently languishing in Burma's notorious jails. Among them are eight writers who are serving long sentences for simply exercising their universal right to free expression.
Among these is Zargana, a much-loved poet, actor and comedian, held isolated conditions in Myitkyina Prison. He was imprisoned in 2008 for 35 years, after speaking to international journalists in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. There are concerns for his health as he has reportedly been ill-treated.
"The Writers in Prison Committee extends its support to all political prisoners in Burma, especially those imprisoned for speaking out against this brutal and illegitimate regime," comments Sara Whyatt, WiPC international programme director. "We call on the Burmese regime to further the cause of reconciliation by releasing all political prisoners unconditionally and removing all restrictions on free expression in the media, literature, and the performing and visual arts."
Aung San Suu Kyi is one of several writers supported by PEN who have won the Nobel Prize. Another PEN member is Liu Xiaobo, winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, who also remains in prison for exercising his right to free expression. PEN International uses this opportunity to call for Liu's immediate and unconditional release in China.