June 18, 2005
His Excellency Mohammad Khatami
Presiden of the Islamic Republic of Iran
We, the undersigned delegates to the 71st. Congress of Interantional PEN being held in Bled Slovenia, wish to express our grave concern on behalf of our colleagues Nasser Zarafshan and Akbar Ganji, who are denied in Evin Prison in Tehran in violation of theif right to freedom of expression.
For the past week, Nasser Zarafshan, the courageous Iranian writer and lawyer, has been in a hunger strike in the horrendous Evin Prison in Tehran. He has said that he sill continue the strike until either he is released or dead. He is sick with stone in both his kidneys. He has been in prison for close to four years.
Akbar Ganji, the Iranian journalist who participated in the Berlin Conference in Iran in 2000 and was tried and imprisoned four years ago, was discharged about ten years ago with the assumption that he was being released from prison, but after he bluntly was critical of Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, and joined the ranks of Iranain demonstrating in front of the Evin Prison for the release of Nasser Zarafshan, he was arrested and once again imprisoned.
Yousef Banitorof, a writer, intellectual und translator, was arrested in the aftermath of the crackdown on the Arab ethnic group of Khuzistan province by the government. He is being kept incommunicado in a Khuzistan prison.
We, the undersgned, writers from all over the world gathered in Bled, Slovenia for the 71st. Congress of Internationa PEN, demand that Nasser Zarafshan, Akbar Ganji, Yousef Banitorof and all writers and journalists unjustly detained in Iranian prisons are immediately and unconditionally released. We also demand that all those responsible for illegal harasment, incarcertion and torture of writers and intellectuals in Iran are brought to justice.
Amng those holding a sit-in strike at the door of the Evin Prison are members of the Writers Association of Iran to whose board Nasser Zarafshan belongs. In recent days government forces in and around the Evin Prison have physically attacked members of the Writers Association holding sit-in strike, and arrested and released them after interrogation under duress. Ms. Akram Eghbali, one of the writers has been seriously wounded. We abhor these tactics of harassment and fear and join our voices with these courageous writers in their demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all writers unjustly imprisoned in Iran
Jiri Grussa, President
Joanne Leedom- Ackerman, International Secretary
Karin Clark, Chair, Writers in Prison Committee