News & Views
The PEN open letter on behalf of Akbar Ganji
February 18, 1998
Sayed Mohammad Khatemi
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Via Foreign Affairs: please forward 011-98-21-674-790
Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi
Head of the Judiciary Ministry of Justice
Park-e Shahr Tehran,
Islamic Republic of Iran 011-98-21-646-5242
On behalf of the 2,700 writers who are members of PEN American Center, we write to express our concern at the arrest of Akbar Ganji, publisher of the literary monthly magazine Rah-e No. We understand that in the absence of due process, Mr. Ganji was arrested and remains in detention.
According to our information, Mr. Ganji, who is both a writer of the monthly Kiyan, and the publisher of Rah-e No, has spent more than two months incarcerated with no formal charges. Sources report that his arrest follows his speech titled Shariati and Fascism given at Shiraz University, in which he blamed the right wing in various systems of government for fascism and explained that the concept of "leader" in Velayat-e-faghih is fascistic and has no relevance to Islam. In a letter from Evin Prison to the Judges Disciplinary Justice Office, Mr. Ganji explains that charges claiming his speech insulted the Iranian leadership are unfounded.
Mr. Ganji's wife published an open letter in a Tehran newspaper earlier this month reiterating that no reasons were given for her husband's arrest and the refusal of authorities to allow family visits. We respectfully ask that in line with your pledge to reinforce the rule of law in Iran, Your Excellency personally secures the release of Mr. Ganji pending a fair and open trial. This would confirm your promise to allow more cultural and political liberties for Iranian civil society.
We believe that you trust in the benefits reaped from an open society which celebrates free expression. We are hopeful that under your leadership, Iranian civil society will prosper and Mr. Ganji along with all writers in Iran will be free to pursue literary endeavour without threat or fear of repression.
We look forward to your response by fax or telephone.
Anthony Appiah, Chair, PEN Freedom-to-Write Committee
Karen Kennerly, Executive Director, PEN American Center
Diana Ayton-Shenker Director, PEN Freedom-to-Write Program, PEN American Center, 568 Broadway, Suite 401 New York, NY 10012, Phone: 212/334-1660; FAX: 212/334-2181