New York City, May 13, 2010—PEN American Center condemned the 13-year sentence handed down to Iranian-Canadian journalist and playwright Maziar Bahari in absentia on May 9, calling the action by the Tehran Revolutionary Court “an embarrassing end to a terrible year for press freedom and freedom of expression in Iran.”

Bahari was reporting on the disputed June 12 presidential elections in Iran when he was detained and held for four months in Evin Prison. He was released on bail in October after suffering long days of interrogation and torture and rejoined his pregnant wife in the United Kingdom. According to PEN’s information, Bahari was convicted in absentia earlier this week for various crimes against the state, including mutiny and insult to Iran’s leaders. In addition to the 13-year prison sentence, the court mandated that he receive 74 lashes for disrupting public order.

Since his release, Bahari has been an outspoken advocate for the dozens of writers and journalists still behind bars in Iran, joining with PEN, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and several other press freedom and free expression organizations to launch the Our Society Will Be a Free Society campaign aimed at winning their release. Earlier this month, at the 2010 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature in New York City, Bahari spoke at length with The Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones about his arrest for reporting on the mass demonstrations after the contested June elections.

“The Revolutionary Guards said that no journalist should report on these events,” Bahari said. “But I was a journalist and I thought ‘it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to report on this,’ so I continued to report. They took me to Evin Prison, and it’s very much like Kafka’s The Trial. Everything they do, they have a reason, but at the same time, it’s so irrational.”

During interrogation sessions in Evin Prison he was confronted with “new evidence” consisting of footage of an interview with Jason Jones that the two had recorded in Tehran shortly before the election. “They were angry about the fact that I talked about many common values that Iranians and Americans share,” Bahari recalled. “A lot of things they tried to charge me with came out of this mixture of ignorance and malice.”

PEN American Center Freedom to Write Program Director Larry Siems decried the Tehran court’s action this week as “a show trial clearly meant to intimidate reporters working in Iran.”

“The only reason to carry through with such a ludicrous proceeding is to send a message that the brutal restrictions on free expression imposed last summer remain in place,” Siems said. “We urge individuals and governments around the world to join our efforts to see that our colleagues imprisoned in Iran simply for their writing or reporting are freed.”

For complete footage of the PEN World Voices event with Maziar Bahari and Jason Jones, please visit

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on PEN’s work, please visit

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