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PEN letter to Khamenei on Berlin trial

-- Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei ,
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
-- Hojjat-ul Islam v-al Muslemeen, Seyyed Mohammad Khatami,
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
-- Hojjat-ul Islam v-al Muslemeen Shahroodi,
Chief of the Judiciary
-- Hojjat-ul Islam v-al Muslemeen Mehdi Karroubi,
Speaker of the Parliament

-- Kofi Annan Secretary General, United Nations
-- Mary Robinson UNCHR
-- Maurice Copithorne UNCHR
-- Islamic Human Rights Commission

November 9th, 2000

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 2700 writers who are members of PEN American Center, we write to express our deep dismay at the ongoing public trials, by the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, of writers, journalists and intellectuals, including Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Mohammad Ali Sepanloo, Moniroo Ravanipour, Hassan Youssefi Eshkevari (tried by the Special Court for the Clergy) Mehrangiz Kar, Shahla Lahiji, Jamileh Kadivar, Shahla Sherkat, Khadijeh Hajdini Moghadam, Akbar Ganji, Mohammad Reza Jalaipour, Said Sadr, Khalil Rostamkhani, Ali Reza Alavi-Tabar,Ezzatollah Sahabi, Fariborz Raisdana, and Ali Afshari.

These individuals, some of whom are distinguished and internationally known writers and journalists, have been accused of being counter-revolutionary and of threatening national security by organizing and/or attending the Berlin Conference. Their charges have ranged from propaganda against the Islamic Republic, and acting against national security , to "waging war against God" (moharebeh) and even apostasy.

Particularly disturbing are the charges against HojjatulIslam Eshkevari for apostasy, and Mr. Said Sadr and Mr. Khalil Rostamkhani for "waging war against God". Mr. Sadr and Mr. Rostamkhani did not participate in the confrence in Berlin, but are accused of working on the organization of the conference in their capacity as translators. The charges against these three individuals can carry the penalty of execution.

The Berlin conference was organized by the Heinrich Boll Foundation on April 7-8 , 2000 to discuss the impact of the sixth parliamentary elections in Iran. We would respectfully like to remind you that conferences such as these are convened for discussion and the free exchange of ideas, a right that is guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In fact, these participants were invited to and participated in an international conference, in which they merely expressed their opinions. It is outrageous that participants in an open international conference would be accused of endangering national security, or of any other political charge.

This is only the latest evidence of the blatant disregard for the fundamental right of free expression by the judiciary in Iran. In April, a number of individuals accused of the serial murders of writers and intellectuals-events which shocked the international literary community-were freed, and the process of finding and punishing those responsible seems to have been halted. Furthermore, a major crackdown on the independent press has continued, resulting in the closure of over 20 newspapers and magazines. The detention, imprisonment, and trial of editors and journalists have become a matter of daily occurrence. Writers, journalists, or anyone engaged in critical thought or analysis risks censorship, harassment, public humiliation and imprisonment.

As members of the international community of writers, we firmly believe that free expression is a fundamental right. We write to you to as a matter of utmost urgency to respect that right, to drop all the charges against these writers, journalists, translators and intellectuals, and to allow these respected individuals to return to their lives and professions.

Thank you for your attention We look forward to your response in this matter. Sincerely,

K. Anthony Appiah Chair Freedom-to-Write Committee Michael Roberts Executive Director PEN American Center


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