Swedish council helping exiled writer Taslima Nasreen
Thursday, 05 June 2008

REUTERS, STOCKHOLM - Exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, under threat after angering Muslim groups with her work, is living in Sweden with the support of a local municipality, a member of parliament said on Monday.

Cecilia Wikstrom, a deputy chairman of a parliamentary committee on cultural affairs, said the local council of the university town of Uppsala had offered to cover Nasreen's basic living expenses for up to two years so she can write.

"I'm not sure whether she is willing to use the whole time," Wikstrom told Reuters, "but we have offered her this sort of scholarship."

Wikstrom, a member of the Liberal Party who represents Uppsala, said she had seen Nasreen on Sunday and that the author was currently out of the country on a trip.

Svenska PEN, the Swedish branch of the international writers' association, said in March that Nasreen had flown to a European location to receive treatment for a heart condition, but it declined to reveal where at the request of the author.

Before that, Nasreen had spent months living in hiding in India. Violent protests by Muslim groups in November forced Indian authorities to put her in a safe house and bar visitors.

Nasreen fled Bangladesh in 1994 when a court said she had "deliberately and maliciously" hurt Muslim religious feelings with her Bengali-language novel "Lajja", or "Shame", in which she argued the Hindu minority in Bangladesh was poorly treated.

In that same year, the European Parliament awarded her the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought.

In February, she was rushed to a hospital in New Delhi after her blood pressure plummeted from an overdose of medicine to control high blood pressure.

Wikstrom said the author's medical condition was fine and that she wanted to focus now on writing, possibly on poetry.

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