February 2, 2008

Monsieur le Président de la République
Laurent Gbagbo
Palais de la Présidence au Plateau
P.O. Box: 01 BP 1354 Abidjan 01
Fax : + 225 20 21 14 25

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Côte d’Ivoire to the United Nations
H.E. Mr. Ilahiri Alcide Djedje,
46 East 74th Street, New York, NY 10021
Fax: (212) 717-4492

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,400 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our grave concern regarding the detention of activist Antoine Assalé Tiémoko.

According to our information, Tiémoko was arrested on December 28, 2007, in response to an opinion piece he wrote on judicial corruption, entitled “Justice, Criminals, and Corruption.” This piece was published in the daily Le Nouveau Réveil on December 14, 2007. In the piece, Tiémoko used an imaginary country called Mastodon Coast, as well as coded words and innuendo, to question the Ivorian minister of justice (whose photo accompanied the piece), the state prosecutor, and various judges, and to accuse them of corruption. On January 4, 2008, Tiémoko was condemned to one year in prison for “libelling the prosecutor’s office” and contempt of court, and is now serving his prison sentence in Abidjan prison. Tiémoko is not a journalist but has apparently been given a prison sentence simply for expressing his opinion in print. 

PEN believes Antoine Assalé Tiémoko has been detained in violation of his right to the freedom of expression and opinion, guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Ivory Coast is party. We therefore respectfully ask for his immediate and unconditional release. 

Thank you for your attention.

Hannah Pakula                  
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Ambassador Daouda Diabate
3421 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007
Fax: (202) 244-3088

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