PEN press release on Sarkuhi

September 18, 1997 -- PEN American Center today received a report concerning the trial of imprisoned Iranian writer and editor Faraj Sarkuhi, who has been charged with "espionage" -- a charge that can carry the death penalty in Iran -- and "attempting to flee Iran."

This morning, Faraj Sarkuhi left a message on his wife Farideh's answering machine in Germany informing her that he had been sentenced to a year in prison on the charge of "slandering the Islamic Republic of Iran." PEN has not received a confirmation from the Iranian government that Sarkuhi has been sentenced, or that the other charges against him have been dropped.

Faraj Sarkuhi was signatory to the "1994 Declaration of 134 Iranian Writers," a document that circulated around the globe and called for an end to all censorship of literary endeavor in Iran. Sarkuhi was arrested twice in 1996, and on November 3, he disappeared while attempting to leave Iran to visit relatives in Germany.

After a seven week absence, he reappeared at Tehran Airport on December 20, and insisted that he had in fact traveled to Germany. But only days later he wrote a letter to his wife which was circulated by PEN after he was rearrested on January 27, 1997, in which he admitted that he was held in Iran during those seven weeks, and detailed the physical and psychological torture he was forced to endure at the hands of Iranian intelligence officials:

I don't know how long I have. I expect to be rearrested at any second or to be murdered in such a way that it will be made to look like suicide. Torture, prison and death are what lie ahead of me.

In late June, after months of silence on Sarkuhi's case, the Iranian government finally announced that Sarkuhi's trial for espionage and attempting to flee the country would commence "shortly," but no further statements have been made.

PEN American Center reiterates its belief that Faraj Sarkuhi is guilty of no internationally recognized crime, and urges the Iranian government to drop all charges, including "slander," against him, to release him immediately and unconditionally, and to allow him to leave Iran and rejoin his family.

PEN is an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting the freedom of expression wherever it is threatened.

For further information, contact Jake Kreilkamp at PEN at (212) 334-1660.

Related links

* Sarkuhi page
* Iran News page
* Complete list of Iranian online media


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