(New York, NY) – The arrest and detention of writer and translator Arash Ganji in Iran is an unwarranted attempt to stifle free expression, and he should be immediately released, PEN America said in a statement today.

Ganji is a well-known writer and translator, and currently serves as Secretary of the Iranian Writers’ Association (IWA). On December 22, 2019, authorities raided Ganji’s apartment and confiscated his belongings, including his laptop, books, and notes, and then arrested him on undisclosed charges. According to his sister, his family has since learned that he is being detained at Evin Prison in solitary confinement, where he is being subject to interrogation and denied visitation from either his family or legal representation. In addition, he suffers from a serious heart condition that requires medical care, which they fear he is being denied.

“The Iranian authorities have blatantly targeted Arash Ganji for his writing and work to foster free expression and cross-cultural literary understanding,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “As secretary of the Iranian Writers’ Association, Ganji is a courageous leader in a country where free expression is all too often met with harassment or imprisonment. Ganji has committed no crime; he should be released immediately, and provided with all necessary medical attention in the meantime.”

Authorities have a long history of harassing the IWA; in February 2019, three members of the IWA were arrested, and in April they were each sentenced to serve six years in prison on unsubstantiated charges of “propaganda against the state” and “acting against national security.” PEN America’s work on freedom of expression in Iran includes its advocacy on behalf of imprisoned writers and journalists, including Narges Mohammadi and Nasrin Sotoudeh. Sotoudeh was honored with PEN America’s Freedom to Write Award in 2011; after being released in 2013, Sotoudeh was rearrested in 2018, and is currently serving a sentence of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, sfee@pen.org, +1 202 309 8892