New York, NY, October 11, 2001—PEN American Center today expressed deep concern over the news that Khalil Rostamkhani, an Iranian translator sentenced to 8 years in prison for helping to arrange a conference sponsored by the Heinrich Böll Institute in Berlin last year, has been transferred to Bandar Abbas prison in southern Iran, a remote facility known to house inmates in particularly harsh conditions.

“International human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned the trials of Mr. Rostamkhani and 18 others who either helped organize or participated in the Berlin conference as a clear violation of international guarantees to the right of freedom of expression” said Larry Siems, Director of the Freedom to Write Program at PEN American Center. “PEN was deeply disappointed when, despite those condemnations, the Supreme Court of Iran upheld the convictions and draconian prison sentences of Mr. Rostamkhani and fellow translator Said Sadr last month. That disappointment gives way now to urgent concern for Mr. Rostamkhani’s welfare.”

Siems emphasized that PEN was especially troubled by fact that Mr. Rostamkhani, who as a translator has played an indispensable role in advancing the dialogue between Iran and the world community, is being forced to serve his term in a facility that is all-but-inaccessible. “In essentially banishing Mr. Rostamkhani to Bandar Abbas prison, the Iranian judiciary is not only punishing him in clear violation of his right of freedom of expression, but also curtailing the rights of many other Iranian citizens under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to participate freely in international conversations,” he said.

In all, 13 men and women have been convicted in connection with the Berlin conference, which the Heinrich Böll Institute hosted in Berlin on April 7-8, 2000 to discuss the impact of the sixth parliamentary election in Iran. PEN reiterated its condemnation of those sentences today, and called for the immediate release of Mr. Rostamkhani and the reversal of all the convictions handed down to Iranian writers and intellectuals for their involvement in that peaceful academic forum.

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660, ext. 105