The Mark Blog

Observing Day of the Imprisoned Writer

To mark Day of the Imprisoned Writer, we have highlighted three writers from across the world who are currently imprisoned or are in danger of being imprisoned. In their profiles, you will find the sentence they are currently facing, observation and assessment from outside the court stating the discrepancies in these accusations, and their freedoms that have now been denied.

PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee observed the first Day of the Imprisoned Writer on November 15th, 1981. Since then, this day has been observed annually by all of the PEN centers throughout the world.

This event is integral to PEN Center USA’s mission of promoting literary culture, building a worldwide community of writers and thinkers, and preserving the freedom to write domestically and abroad. It is a day of mourning, one where we pause to consider the appalling fact that writers continue to struggle with harassment, intimidation, threats, imprisonment, violence, and even death when they exercise their fundamental right to self-expression. But it is also a day of action, when we recommit ourselves to fight for the day when all writers, everywhere, can write freely and openly on any topic without the least fear of reprisal.

We ask that you lend us your support by applying the graphics available on this page to your social media accounts, reading about the profiled writers, and helping to spread the word about censored, imprisoned, and otherwise abused writer around the world.  

Enoh Meyomesse

Imprisonment Discrepancies
Current Sentence: 30 days of solitary confinement and torture for allegedly stealing gold which would be used to buy weapons to overthrow the government. He faces a trial that did not meet international standards of fairness and transparency.

Supporters and International Observers: Meyomesse, writer of 15 books of poetry and prose, is being targeted for his political beliefs. Mr. Meyomesse was arrested less than one month after announcing his candidacy challenging the sitting president.

Freedoms Denied: Publishing freely, expressing political beliefs, seeking public office | Source: Huffington Post

Enoh Meyamesse, 57, is a writer, blogger, historian, and political activist who has published more than 15 books of poetry, prose, essays, and works on political and cultural themes, and is a founding member and president of the Cameroon Writers Association. On December 14, 2012, after 13 months in prison, Enoh Meyomesse was found guilty of theft and illegal sale of gold.

On December 27, 2012, he was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 200,000 CFA, as requested by the state prosecutor. No witnesses or evidence were presented during the trial, and he was not allowed to testify in his own defense. According to Meymesse, he was sentenced "without any proof of wrong-doing on my part, without any witnesses, without any complainants, and, more than that, after having been tortured during 30 days by an officer of the military." 

Wajeha Al-Huwaider

Imprisonment Discrepancies
Current Sentence
: Convicted and sentenced to prison for ten months, with an additional two-year travel ban.

The Independent: "In 2011, Wajeha and Fawzia responded to a plea for help from Nathalie Morin, a Canadian woman. They received a text message saying that Nathalie and her children were locked in her house and in need of food. Upon arriving close to Nathalie’s home, they were confronted by police and arrested. The charge they were ultimately convicted of was “supporting a wife without her husband’s knowledge, thereby undermining the marriage.” Al-Huwaider was sentenced to 10 months in prison."

International Observers: This was likely a set-up, a scheme to frame Al-Huwaider and stifle her activism on behalf of Saudi women.

PEN International: "She has been the victim of a sustained harassment campaign since May 2003, when she was banned from publishing in Saudi Arabia."

Freedoms Denied: Right to express political opinions, right to publish freely | Source: The Independent

Wajeha Al-Huwaider has been subjected to harassment since May 2003, when she was first banned from publishing. A prominent Saudi Arabian author and journalist, Al-Huwaider wrote for the Arabic-language daily Al-Watan and the English-language daily Arab News.

In 2011 al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni were charged with kidnapping for attempting to help Nathalie Morin escape her abusive husband and go to the Canadian embassy in Riyadh. The charges were dropped due to the influence of a prominent politician in the region, but a year later al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni were charged with the lesser crime of takhbib (inciting a separation between a husband and wife). On June 15, 2013 Al-Huwaider and Al-Oyouni were convicted and sentenced to prison for ten months, with an additional two-year travel ban. 

Lê Quốc Quân

Imprisonment Discrepancies
Current Sentence: 30 months in jail for tax evasion after substantial mistreatment by the Vietnamese government.

Supporters and International Observers say: Politically motivated trial meant to silence his political writings on human rights abuses in Vietnam. The typical penalty for tax evasion in Vietnam is less severe than what Quân is facing.

Freedoms Denied: Publishing freely, expressing political beliefs | Source: BBC News

On March 8, 2007, Quân was detained after he returned to Vietnam from a fellowship with the United States-based National Endowment for Democracy. The detention led United States presidential candidate John McCain and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright to write to Vietnam in protest and Amnesty International to name him a prisoner of conscience. During Quan's detention, United States Ambassador Michael Marine invited his wife to tea at the United States Embassy, but was unable to meet her when police blocked her from entering. Vietnamese authorities accused Quan of "activities to overthrow the people's government", but did not formally charge him. He was released three months later.

Quân is a Roman Catholic and an advocate for religious freedom. He participated in a march of Catholics on January 29, 2008 at Saint Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi, protesting the government's occupation of land also claimed by the church. He later told reporters that he had been beaten by guards during the march.

On April 5, 2011, he was re-arrested along with Pham Hong Son when attempting to observe the trial of democracy activist Cu Huy Ha Vu. The pair were held for "causing public disorder". Son's wife Vu Thu Ha stated that Son had been assaulted by police with batons prior to his arrest. After the U.S. government and human rights groups called for the men's release, both were released without charge on April 13, 2011.

He was arrested by the Vietnamese government on charges of tax evasion on December 27, 2012, convicted on October 2, 2013, and sentenced to 30 months in prison. The arrest was condemned by international human rights organizations and the United States government.

Participate in Day of the Imprisoned Writer by creating awareness of the event on social media. Join the PEN Center USA team by downloading the following graphics and using them on your Facebook and Twitter accounts. We encourage everyone to discuss topics pertaining to Day of the Imprisoned Writer on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Your support is what makes this day powerful.

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