More than 900 writers, poets, essayists, and journalists in Iran have condemned the recent harsh verdicts against three prominent members of the Iranian Writers Association (IWA) as an “unjustified,” and “severe damage to the fundamental rights of all Iranians” that “kills freedom.”
The statement published on Sunday, May 19 calls upon the Islamic Republic judiciary to immediately and unconditionally exonerate Baktash Abtin, Kayvan Bazhaan (Bajan) and Reza Khandan Mahabadi.
The Iranian judiciary has sentenced the three to six years in prison each on May 15, 2019.
The three were convicted of “propaganda against the state” and “assembly and collusion against national security” for publishing the IWA’s internal history, printing internal publications and organizing memorial ceremonies for IWA members murdered by state agents in the 1990s. The sentence was issued by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran presided by Judge Mohammad Moghiseh, known for his harsh tratment of human rights activists, lawyers, and members of religious minorities.
The 900 signatories to the statement have insisted that Abtin, Bazhan and Khandan Mahabadi have been merely convicted for enjoying their right to freedom of expression and expressing their opinion.
In a statement published earlier this month, PEN International’s communications director Rebecca Sharkey said: “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 drop all charges against them and to respect their right to freedom of expression.”
PEN International said Abtin, Bajan and Khandan-Mahabadi were briefed about the charges in a January court hearing after which they were detained for several days before being released on bail. It said their last hearings at the court were April 27 and 28.