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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fifteen Nobel Peace Prize laureates urged the G20 to ask China to free imprisoned rights activist Liu Xiaobo, whose receipt of the peace prize this month infuriated Beijing.
"The Chinese government's release of Dr. Liu would be an extraordinary recognition of the remarkable transformation China has undergone in recent decades," the group said in a letter which was made public on Monday by Freedom Now, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that works to free prisoners of conscience.
The letter, signed by Nobel laureates including South African Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the Dalai Lama, also asked the Group of 20 rich and developing nations to urge China to free Liu's wife Liu Xia from what it called de facto house arrest.
Liu, who is serving an 11-year prison term on subversion charges, was awarded the Nobel peace prize earlier this month. Beijing says Liu is a criminal and that giving him the prize was an "obscenity".
The letter urged the G20 leaders to press Chinese President Hu Jintao about Liu's case at a G20 summit in Seoul on November 10-11.
"The summit provides time and opportunity to address Dr. Liu's imprisonment. We strongly urge you to impress upon Chinese President Hu Jintao that the release of Dr. Liu would not only be welcome, but is necessary," the letter said.
The 15 signatories of the letter also include Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi and former South African President F.W. de Klerk.
Not on the list were several notable prize winners including South Africa's Nelson Mandela, who has largely retired from public life, and U.S. President Barack Obama, who earlier this month issued his own statement asking China to release Liu.
Reporting by Andrew Quinn; editing by Mohammad Zargham