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Politic-Economic-Society-Tech

Tibet's longest-serving political prisoner freed

Tibet's longest serving political prisoner, who has spent much of the past 40 years in jail, has been released from jail nine years early, a rights group said Thursday.

Tanak Jigme Zangpo, now 76, was freed Sunday on medical parole and told by authorities that a request to to seek medical treatment abroad would be "sympathetically considered", the Tibet Information Network (TIN) said.

The former primary school teacher has spent 32 years in prison since 1965, continuously since 1983 when he was convicted of "spreading and inciting counter-revolutionary propaganda" for pasting posters at Lhasa's Jokhang temple, according to Tibet rights groups.

His sentence was extended twice due to his behaviour in prison, including for shouting "Free Tibet" during the 1991 visit of a Swiss delegation to the Tibet Autonomous Region Prison Number One, or Drapchi, where he was held.

"Jigme Zangpo was well-known as one of the most determined and intransigent political prisoners in Drapchi, and was highly respected by other political prisoners," a statement by the London-based TIN said.

He was now staying with a relative in Lhasa, it added.

Jigme Zangpo's case has attracted widespread international attention and his release -- which was due in 2011 -- has long been demanded by human rights groups.

Jigme Zangpo was one of the prisoners whose plight was singled out by US Ambassador to Beijing Clark Randt ahead of a visit to China in February by President George W. Bush.

A month before Bush's trip, another high-profile Tibetan prisoner whose case had attracted attention in the West, music scholar Ngawang Choephel, was also freed early.

According to TIN, authorities had previously made several offers of medical parole to Jigme Zangpo over the past two years, but that he was concerned about being "a burden" for relatives if released and had resisted the offers.

"He was also said to be unhappy with the authorities' emphasis on him seeking medical treatment abroad rather than staying in Tibet," the TIN statement said.

Finally he agreed to leave the jail when it was decided he could stay in Lhasa if he wished upon his release, it added.

Jigme Zangpo, from the Lhasa area, was first jailed for three years from 1965 for making comments on the Chinese treatment of Tibetans, according to rights groups who have followed his case.

In 1970 he was again arrested and sentenced to 10 years hard labour for reportedly inciting his niece to flee Tibet and report Chinese abuses to exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

In 1983 he was jailed for 15 years for pasting up posters critical of the Chinese in Lhasa, with the term extended twice for political activities in prison.

The incident in which he shouted slogans when the Swiss delegation visited saw him beaten and placed in solitary confinement, TIN said.

There had been fears for Jigme Zangpo's health for several years, the group added, including reported heart problems.

China seized control of Tibet in 1951 in what it called a "peaceful liberation" and has subsequently exerted a tight and often brutal control over the Himalayan region.



sourc
e: Indiatimes, 4 Apr 2002


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