Parsipur: Khatami's first
action should be to free Sarkuhi

Berkeley, California, June 19 (THE IRANIAN) -- President-elect Mohammad Khatami should order the release of imprisoned editor Faraj Sarkuhi as soon as he begins his term in August, a prominent Iranian author said Thursday.

Shahrnush Parsipur made the statement in a joint press conference with Sarkuhi's wife, who is here to raise awareness about her husband's case.

"If I was in Mr. Khatami's place, the first thing I would do would be to free Mr. Sarkuhi because his imprisonment is a great inustice," Parsipur said. "That's what he should do if he is the people's choice for president."

Sarkuhi, editor of the popular literary and social magazine Adineh, has been in detention since January charged with attempting to leave the country illegally.

But in a letter before his arrest, he said he was being singled out for punishment because of signing a letter with 133 other Iranian writers calling for greater freedom of expression and because of Iran's row with Germany over the Mykonos trial.

Sarkuhi's wife, Farideh Zebarjad, said he contacted his mother in Tehran three weeks ago telling her he was in good health. The telephone conversation on May 29 was the last time anyone had heard from her husband.

"He also told his mother that he will be put on trial in ten days but so far nothing has happened," she said.

Zebarjad said she did not have "any particular hope" that Moahmmad Khatami's election as the new Iranian president would increase chances for Sarkuhi's freedom.

"The Islamic Republic will do what it wants for its own survival, regardless of Mr. Khatami," she said.

Zebarjad is here to attend a meeting on Saturday at the University of California, Berkeley, in support of her husband, sponsored by Amnesty International and the international writers organization, PEN.

Organized efforts to free Sarkuhi may help improve conditions for other Iranian writers to work in a safer and freer environment, she said.

"If Faraj is alive, it is because of these activities" to pressure Iran to free Sarkuhi, she added.

Zebarjad also said it was unlikely that a poem published recently in an Iranian newspaper aborad was written by her husband. The paper claimed it had been smuggled out of prison.

"I have not seen the poem, but a friend of mine who read it said it could not have been written by Faraj. I think it is very unlikely that he wrote it."

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