Iranian liberal opposition demand fair trial for Sarkuhi
TEHRAN, Sept 10 (Wire services) - Some 30 liberal Islamic opposition leaders called on Wednesday for a public and fair trial for the Iranian dissident writer Faraj Sarkuhi.
In a letter to judiciary chief Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, they complained that the charges publicly stated against Sarkuhi were "unclear and contradictory."
"Please make an arrangement that his trial is conducted in accordance with legal procedures, in public and with the presence of a jury," said the letter, a copy of which was faxed to news agencies.
"Also, allow him to choose an attorney, permit journalists to attend the trial and let his defense be reflected without censorship," said the dissident leaders, including former foreign minister Ebrahim Yazdi.
"We only seek to defend his constitutional rights and the international reputation of the Islamic republic," the signatories said, expressing the hope that the rule of law would be respected under the new government of Mohammad Khatami.
Sarkuhi, the former chief editor of the literary monthly Adineh, was arrested in February for allegedly trying to flee the country illegally.
He had also been arrested several times in 1996, once as he dined with the German cultural attache in Tehran in July and again in November as he prepared to take a flight to Germany where his wife lives.
In June, Iran's chief justice, the conservative Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, said Sarkuhi had been charged with "spying for a foreign country and attempting to illegally leave the country."
Spying for a foreign country is punishable by death in Iran.
An Iranian human rights group expressed the hope on Sunday that a court verdict would be issued shortly on Sarkuhi.
"Judicial investigation is being conducted in the case and the committee is overseeing the entire procedure," the head of the Islamic Committee for Human Rights, Mohammad-Hassan Ziai-Far, said.
Iran has come under pressure from Western countries and human rights organisations to free Sarkuhi.
Ziai-Far said last month he had seen a letter from Sarkuhi dated July 8 in which he admitted "certain faults" and asked foreign countries "not to become involved in this internal affair."
He also wrote that he had "no bad intentions" in his links with some foreign diplomats and cultural centers, and asked Ziai-Far's organization to help soften his punishment.
Sarkuhi was among 134 writers and journalists who signed a petition in October 1994 calling for more freedom of expression in Iran.