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PEN writes to Khatami to protest lawyers' detention

President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
The Presidency
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: 011-9821-673-177 (via foreign affairs)

July 12, 2000

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the 2,700 writers who are members of PEN American Center, we write again this time to protest the detention of Shirin Ebadi and Mohsen Rahami, two leading pro-reform lawyers. Their imprisonment is another blow to the course of reform underway in Iran and speaks to the precarious situation facing writers and intellectuals. The recent arrests concern individuals who have been instrumental in the development of the democratic process in Iran; Shirin Ebadi, a lawyer and former judge, is an outspoken advocate for women, and Mohsen Rahami has defended journalists and press freedom in Iran.

According to our information, these individuals were arrested on June 28 on charges of "disturbing public opinion" in connection with taped remarks against government officials. Of most concern to PEN is that their trial scheduled to take place next week will be closed to the public and to international monitors.

Once again we are concerned that the current political climate in Iran severely undermines any progress made in the domain of free expression under your leadership. There appears at present to be a concerted effort among some in the Iranian government to seek out those who have been staunch advocates for freedom and to build cases against them. The clamp down on the independent press and the detention of participants of the Berlin Seminar is further testament to the recent attacks on writers and intellectuals.

We believe that Shirin Ebadi and Mohsen Rahami are guilty of nothing other than the peaceful expression of their opinions, and ask that you ensure that all charges against them are dropped and that they are released from prison.

We at PEN are anxious to see that concrete steps are taken to set the reform agenda back on the right track.

We look forward to your response.


Anthony Appiah Chair, PEN Freedom-to-Write Committee
Diana Ayton-Shenker Director, PEN Freedom-to-Write Program


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