April 8, 2010

Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street – Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Islamic Republic of Iran

Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
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 3,400 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 deepest concern regarding the detention of writer and journalist Emadeddin Baghi.

According to our information, Emadeddin Baghi, a prominent journalist and human rights activist, was arrested on December 28, 2009, following massive protests in Tehran and other cities to mark the Shi’a religious observance of Ashoura. He was arrested after the  BBC Persian Service broadcast a two-year-old interview Baghi had conducted with the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, an influential cleric who died in December 2009. The government has sought to clamp down on publicity about Montazeri, who had criticized the conduct of the June presidential election.

Emadeddin Baghi has a long history of political imprisonment and persecution. He was first imprisoned on May 29, 2000, and sentenced to a three-year prison term on charges of “endangering national security” for his writings about the serial murder of dissident intellectuals in Iran in the late 1990s. He served two years of that sentence, and one year was suspended. Baghi also received a one-year suspended term in 2003 for “endangering national security” and “printing lies” in his book The Tragedy of Democracy in Iran. His newspaper Joumhouriat was shut down in 2003. 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 Association for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, an organization that he founded in 2003. In December 2007 he suffered a heart attack and three seizures in prison, and remained in poor health without adequate medical care until his release in October 2008.

Baghi is the author of 20 books, six of which have been banned in Iran, and a winner of the Martin Annals Award in 2009 and British Press Awards for International Journalist of the Year 2008. He remains detained incommunicado without charge in Tehran’s Evin prison, in solitary confinement and without access to family visits. He is in poor health stemming from his previous imprisonment, and there are fears that he is at risk of ill-treatment and medical neglect in prison.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned about the health of Emadeddin Baghi and demands that he is given full access to his family, legal advice, and all necessary medical treatment as a matter of urgency.  We believe that Mr. Baghi is being detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, and we once again call for his immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory. 

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: H. E. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency
Palestine Avenue,
Azerbaijan Intersection,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: +98 21 6 674 790

H. E. Mr. Mohammad Khazaee
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Fax: 212-867-7086

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