PEN letter to President Khatami on behalf of Faraj Sarkuhi
From Rahim Bajoghli firstname.lastname@example.org
November 18, 1997
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
As a worldwide organization of writers dedicated to protecting the freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we have continued to closely follow the case of our colleague, editor Faraj Sarkuhi, since his first arrest more than a year ago.
We write now in response to an alarming article in a recent news publication Jomhouri Eslami on November 3, 1997.
We are deeply concerned that this article contained a coerced "confession", extracted under torture, with the intent to discredit Mr. Sarkuhi. In the article written by Mr. Sarkuhi, who is currently serving his one year sentence for "slandering the Islamic Republic", Mr. Sarkuhi allegedly admits to having had contacts with foreign embassies with a view to "putting in place a secular state in the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Last year, the same paper Jomhouri Eslami had written that Mr. Sarkuhi was in Germany, when in fact, according to our information, he was held in secret by Iranian Information services in Iran.
We fear that this article may be used to launch a new offensive against Mr. Sarkuhi. Sarkuhi asserts in the letter written for publication between his two arrests in February 1996, and which was sent to PEN and subsequently widely distributed that: "They beat me. They repeated the film recordings until the interview was to their satisfaction and each time they instructed me to plead for clemency and forgiveness.....the physical and mental pressure I was under shattered and crushed me totally." On behalf of the 2,700 writers who are members of PEN American Center dedicated to the protection of our colleagues' right to freedom of expression, we respectfully urge your government to take measures to allow for the unhampered release of Mr. Sarkuhi.
We also call on your government to ensure the safety and protection of all Iranian intellectuals. We wish to reiterate that "confessions" extracted under duress have no validity whatsoever.
Freedom of expression is guaranteed under international law as a basic human right and we urge you to uphold international legal standards.
Thank you and we look forward to your response.
PEN American Center
568 Broadway, Suite 401
New York, NY 10012