July 2, 2008

His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei’
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Shoahada Street, Qom
Islamic Republic of Iran

His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Ministry of Justice, Park-e Shahr
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to protest the 11-year prison sentence given to Kurdish journalist Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand.

According to our information, Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand, editor of the banned weekly Payam-e mardom-e Kurdestan (Kurdistan People’s Message), was arrested on July 1, 2007, at his place of work in Tehran. Following his arrest, Mr. Kabudvand was taken to his house in Tehran, where security officers confiscated three computers, books, photographs, and personal documents, before taking him away to the Intelligence Ministry’s Section 209 of Evin Prison, where he is said to have been ill-treated. He spent the first five months of his detention in solitary confinement before his trial began on May 25, 2008.  On June 22, 2008, Mr. Kabudvand was sentenced at a closed trial to 11 years in prison by the Tehran Revolutionary Court on charges of “acting against national security” for forming a human rights organization in Iran’s Kurdish region. According to reports, Mr. Kabudvand suffered a stroke on May 19, 2008, and was denied access to adequate medical care. There are grave concerns for his health.

This is not the first time Mr. Kabudvand has been targeted by the government for his journalism. Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan was banned on June 27, 2004, after only 13 issues for “disseminating separatist ideas and publishing false reports.” Mr. Kabudvand was consequently convicted of “disseminating tribal issues and publishing provocative articles” and ”spreading lies with the intention of upsetting public opinion” by a Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj, western Iran. On August 18, 2005, he received a suspended prison sentence of 18 months as well as a five-year ban on working as a journalist. His conviction was reportedly upheld on appeal, but the suspended prison sentence was increased to one year’s actual imprisonment. In September 2006, he was summoned to begin his prison sentence but remained free pending an appeal against his conviction to the Supreme Court.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned about the health of Mohammad Sadiq Kabudvand and demands that he is given full access to his family, lawyers, and all necessary medical treatment as a matter of urgency.  PEN believes his arrest and conviction are part of a pattern of repression against journalists and human rights activists in Iran’s Kurdish regions, in direct violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory. We therefore respectfully call for his immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all those currently detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression and association. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula                 
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency,
Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: 98 21 6 674 79

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
E-mail: iran@un.int

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