Dozens of writers call for release of jailed Iranian freedom of expression activists
Some of the world’s most famous authors have called for the release of three Iranian writers held in Evin prison in Tehran for defending free speech, according to a campaign group.
Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bajan and Reza Khandan Mahabadi were each sentenced to six years in prison in May 2019 on false national security and propaganda charges, according to PEN America. Mr. Bajan’s sentence was reduced on appeal.
Mr Abtin and Mr Khandan Mahabadi have since contracted Covid-19 while behind bars and all three, who were sent to prison last year, have been denied hospital visits for a medical treatment.
The signatories of the letter to President Ebrahim Raisi include literary heavyweights such as Margaret Atwood, Orhan Pamuk and JM Coetzee.
“We call on you, President Raisi, to release Abtin, Bajan and Khandan Mahabadi; acquit them of all charges in the wrongly brought court case against them; and stop official reprisals against all writers exercising their right to express themselves freely, ”the letter said.
The three men served on the board of directors of the Iranian Writers Association, a group in Iran banned since the 1980s.
They were convicted in part because of their co-author of a book on the history of the group, which has criticized successive Iranian governments for decades, according to rights organizations.
The three men were also punished for holding memorial ceremonies for members who were killed by the state in the 1990s.
“It is high time that the Iranian state respects the free expression rights of Iranian writers, poets and thinkers and recognizes the rich traditions of the diverse Iranian literary community,” the letter said.
Updated: September 29, 2021, 2:08 PM