Mark Watson and Josie Long back Amnesty campaign to free jailed Burmese comedian
Tim Clark11 August 2010
Some of the Edinburgh Fringe’s leading comedians have backed a campaign by Amnesty International to free a Burmese comedian who has been incarcerated for over three decades.
Mark Watson and Josie Long are backing a campaign to free Zarganar, one of Burma’s leading comedians, who has been sentenced for 35 years for criticising the Burmese regime.
The comedian was held after speaking out against the Burmese government’s poor relief effort in response to Cyclone Nargis which devastated swathes of the country in 2008.
Comedian Mark Watson said: “You can’t do comedy with someone looking over your shoulder telling you what you can and can’t say. And you can’t do it if you’re under constant threat of being sent to prison. Freedom of expression is the most important thing in the world to comedians.
“I’m supporting Amnesty’s campaign to free Zarganar – he shouldn’t be in prison, he should be onstage telling jokes. I hope everyone at the festival gets behind the campaign.”
Comedian Josie Long said: “What’s really staggering about Zarganar’s story is that the government ultimately locked him up for doing charity work. To get 35 years for trying to help the survivors of a natural disaster, and criticising the authorities for not doing more, is just ridiculous.
“Zarganar had already been banned from the stage for doing jokes that criticised Burma’s authorities, but it’s this act of kindness that pushed them over the edge. It’s unbelievable.
“We need to make as much noise about Zarganar as possible to pressure the Burmese government to release him. No-one should be in prison just for peacefully expressing their views.”
Zarganar is thought to be in poor health, suffering from heart problems and high blood pressure, but has been denied adequate medical treatment by authorities.
Amnesty is asking people to go to www.amnesty.org.uk/zarganar to download a letter to send to the Burmese authorities demanding Zarganar’s immediate and unconditional release. The organisation is also insisting that he is not to be tortured or otherwise ill-treated, and is given all necessary medical treatment and access to lawyers of his own choosing and access to his family.
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