January 28, 2011

His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Shoahada Street,
Qom, 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 extreme concern regarding the sentence handed down to prominent writer, journalist, and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.    

According to our information, on January 9, 2011, Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced Nasrin Sotoudeh, aged 47, to 11 years in prison on charges of “propaganda against the regime,” “acting against national security,” and “violating the Islamic dress code (Hijab) in a filmed speech.” She is believed to be charged for critical interviews she gave to overseas media sources concerning the disputed presidential elections of June 2009, and for her membership in the Association of Human Rights Defenders. She is also banned from practicing law or leaving the country for 20 years. Sotoudeh has 20 days to appeal against the sentence.

On August 29, 2010, security officers raided Sotoudeh’s home and office and confiscated a number of her files and documents. She was summoned to the special court in Evin prison on September 4, 2010, and arrested. Her lawyer was prevented from representing her in court and accompanying her during questioning. Since her arrest, Sotoudeh has been allowed only very limited access to her family in violation of the Iranian Penal Code, which guarantees the right to weekly visitation as well as phone calls to relatives. Sotoudeh is being held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, where she has been on hunger strike for much of the time. Concerns for her well-being are mounting.

PEN American Center condemns the harsh prison sentence handed down to Nasrin Sotoudeh solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression. We believe that her imprisonment is part of a larger crackdown on dissent in Iran, and therefore call for her immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory, and for the release of all writers imprisoned in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

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

His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Palestine Avenue
Azerbaijan Intersection
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: +98 21 6 674 790 (via Foreign Ministry)

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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