Iran: Three Writers Face Lengthy Prison Sentences

By | May 6, 2019 at 1:13 pm | No comments | News

PEN International is deeply concerned about the ongoing trial of three Iranian writers, Baktash Abtin, Reza Khandan-Mahabadi, and Keyvan Bazhan. Mr Abtin’s last hearing was held on 27 April 2019 and that of Khandan-Mahabadi and Bazhan’s on April 28 2019. Both hearings took place before the 28 Branch of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. Among the charges brought against the writers are “spreading propaganda against the regime” as well as “assembly and collusion against national security”. According to an online report, the charges are politically motivated and relate to the writers’ publications critical to the censorship of art and literature in Iran, as well as their membership of the Iranian Writers’ Association, which is an unauthorised organisation.

Verdicts of lengthy prison sentences against the three writers are expected to be issued in May 2019. However, the writers will have 20 days to make an appeal against the verdicts.

We stand in solidarity with our Iranian colleagues who are targeted due to their writing and peaceful activism. We call on the Iranian authorities to dropall charges against them and to respect their right to freedom of expression,” said Rebecca Sharkey, Campaigns and Communications Director of PEN International.

On January 22 2019, the three writers attended a hearing before Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court during which they received a briefing about their indictment. However, the judge denied them the right to be represented by lawyer. Consequently, all of them refused to defend themselves. The judge ordered their release on bail of one billion Rial (approximately $240,000 USD) for each of them. The writers could not afford this huge amount and consequently were sent, on 22 January 2019, to Evin prison in Tehran. On 27 and 28 of January, 2019, the writers were successively released after the bail amount was posted.

PEN International believes that the charges against all three writers are in violation of their right to freedom of expression, and calls upon the Iranian authorities to immediately release them, and to ensure full respect of theirs rights including preparation of their defence and communication with a counsel of their own choosing.

Khandan-Mahabadi, Abtin and Bazhan are members the Iranian Writers’ Association. They have published numerous books, which focus mainly on Iran and its literature. Click here for Mahabadi’s books, here for Abtin’s books and here for Bazhan’s books.

PEN International is alarmed about the large number of writers and activists in Iran who have been detained or imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression. At its 84th Congress held in September 2018, the Assembly of Delegates of PEN International passed a Resolution on Iran noting with concern that the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to violate its obligations under international human rights law, mainly through restricting the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

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