Open Letter To President Khatami of Iran From PEN
PEN American Center
September 29, 1997
568 Broadway, Suite 401
New York, NY 10012
September 29, 1997
As an international organization of writers dedicated to promoting the freedom of expression, we write in response to an announcement of a verdict in the trial of writer and editor Faraj Sarkuhi. Sarkuhi has been arrested numerous times in the past year, and was recently charged with *espionage* and *attempting to flee Iran.* In a vaguely worded statement dated September 20, 1997, the official Iranian News Agency (IRNA) announced that the Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Sarkuhi to *one year in prison by taking into account the time he spent in custody.* The statement also reported that *Sarkuhi was also found guilty of having secret contacts with some European nationals and involvement in anti-state propaganda campaign.* It is not clear which charges led to Sarkuhi*s sentence, or what became of the original charges against him.
Faraj Sarkuhi, who was a signatory to the 1994 Declaration of 134 Iranian writers, has come to symbolize the struggle of all Iran*s writers and intellectuals to speak their minds without fear of reprisal. This IRNA statement of September 20th finally points to a day when he will be free to continue his life, which has been so decisively interrupted. Along with Sarkuhi's family, and his supporters around the world, we have looked forward to that day with fervent hope since he first disappeared. Now, when that moment may finally be at hand, it is doubly important that we continue our efforts to secure his release.
We first wish to state once more our belief that Sarkuhi, who is guilty of no crime whatsoever, must be released immediately and unconditionally, and allowed to rejoin his family outside of Iran. If this is not to be, we urgently request an official statement from the court that has sentenced Sarkuhi, detailing the exact nature of his conviction and confirming that he has been acquitted of all further charges. We furthermore request an assurance that his case will not be reopened at a future date; and that he will be guaranteed access to his family, legal counsel, and adequate medical care for the remainder of his detention.
The immediate release of Faraj Sarkuhi and his reunion with his wife and children will be seen as an important sign of your government's commitment to freedom of expression. Nevertheless, only when all writers in Iran can practice their profession without fear of harassment and arrest will our work be done. For this reason, we have formed an international committee for the defense of Iranian writers and intellectuals, under the auspices of PEN's Freedom-to-Write Committee, which will be solely dedicated to ensuring that the ordeal of Faraj Sarkuhi shall never be repeated.
K. Anthony Appiah
PEN Freedom-to-Write Committee Chair
On behalf of the international committee to defend Iranian writers and intellectuals currently in formation, whose members include:
International PEN President: Homero Aridjis
International PEN Vice Presidents: Nadine Gordimer, Arthur Miller, Mario Vargas, Llosa Per Wastberg, Margaret Atwood, Pierre Bourdieu, Gunter Grass, Eric Hobsbawm, Mahmoud Darwish, Edward Said, Vikram Seth