New York, March 18, 2009—One week before an Appeals Court hears its challenge to the exclusion of Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan from the U.S., PEN joined 59 other organizations in sending a letter to members of the Obama administration urging an end to the practice of refusing visas to foreign writers, intellectuals, and activists based on their ideas and political views.

The letter calls on Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to abandon ideological exclusion, which was prevalent during the Cold War and which was revived  by the Bush administration after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Insisting that practice violates the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens to engage with a full range of information and ideas, the letter also notes the damage excluding such writers as Gabriel García Marquez, Mahmoud Darwish, Pablo Neruda, and Doris Lessing did to America’s reputation during the Cold War. PEN and its partners urge the government to revisit several recent cases in particular, including that of historian and Basque PEN member Iñaki Egaña; Haluk Gerger, a Turkish journalist and sociologist; Dora Maria Tellez, a Nicaraguan human rights activist; Adam Habib, a South African political commentator; and Tariq Ramadan, whose case will be argued on Tuesday, March 24 before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

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