January 24, 2011

His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street – End of Shahid Keshvar Doust Street, Tehran,
Islamic Republic of Iran

Ayatollah Sadeqh Larijani
Head of the Judiciary
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh
(Office of the Head of the Judiciary)
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhouri
Tehran 1316814737
Islamic Republic of Iran

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 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 reports that leading journalist, writer, and human rights activist Emadeddin Baghi has been returned to prison despite extremely poor health. 

According to our information, Emadeddin Baghi was sentenced to six years in prison in September 2010 on charges relating to an interview he gave to the BBC’s Persian Service in 2008, but remained free on bail until December 5, 2010. He reportedly is being held without access to family visitation, despite evidence of the continuing deterioration of his health. In December 2007 Baghi suffered a heart attack and three seizures while serving a separate sentence in prison, and remained in poor health without adequate medical care until his release in October 2008.

Baghi was arrested on December 28, 2009 following the broadcast by the BBC Persian Service of a two-year old interview Baghi had conducted with the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, who died in December 2009. The government has sought to clamp down on publicity about Montazeri, who had criticized the conduct of the June 2009 presidential elections. Baghi spent nearly six months in solitary confinement before being released from the notorious Evin prison on June 23, 2010, on bail of 200 million Tomans (approx. US$ 200,000).

This is not the first time Baghi has been targeted by authorities. On May 29, 2000 he was arrested on charges of “endangering national security” for documenting the serial murder of dissident Iranian intellectuals in the late 1990s and served two years of a three-year sentence. In 2003 Baghi received a one-year suspended term for “endangering national security” for authoring The Tragedy of Democracy in Iran. His newspaper Joumhouriat was shut down by authorities the same year. In October 2007 he was sentenced to one year in prison for “acting against national security,” “propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” and “divulging state secret information” for his activities as president of the Society for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, an organization that he founded in 2003.

PEN American Center strongly protests the imprisonment of Emadeddin Baghi despite his extremely poor health. We believe that his arrest is related to an ongoing effort by the leadership of Iran to silence dissident voices in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory. We therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release, and for solid assurances that he has full access to family visits, legal representation, and to all necessary medical care.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                                              
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee           
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: President
His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency,
Palestine Avenue,
Azerbaijan Intersection
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

His Excellency Mr. Mohammad Khazaee
Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the United Nations
622 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 867-7086

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