April 18, 2001
To: His Excellency Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
His Excellency Hojjat-ul-Islam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, President of The Islamic Republic of Iran
Hojjat-ul-Islam v-al Muslemeen Shahroodi, Chief of the Judiciary
Hojjat-ul-Islam v-al Seyyed Muslemeen Mehdi Karroubi, Speaker of the Parliament
Cc: The Honorable Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations
The Honorable Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, Geneva, Switzerland
The Honorable Maurice Danby Copithorne, The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Geneva, Switzerland
H.E. Mr. Seyyed Mohammad Hadi Nejad Hosseinian, Ambassador Extraordinary Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of Iran to the United Nations
Islamic Human Rights Commission
On behalf of the 2,700 writers who are members of PEN American Center, we write to express our grave and urgent concern for Hojjatoleslam Hasan Yousefi Eshkevari.
We are particularly alarmed by reports that Mr. Eshkevari is apparently now being held incommunicado, and that his family has received neither communication from him nor direct confirmation as to his whereabouts for more than a week. We understand that there has been an announcement, reportedly attributed to the Chief of Prisons in Iran, that he has been transferred to Prison 59 in Tehran. Reports that Prison 59 houses prisoners in substandard conditions contribute to our deep concern for Mr. Eshkevari's health and well-being.
Reports that Mr. Eshkevari has been transferred and is now being held incommunicado come amid persistent but unconfirmed rumors that he has received a death sentence from the Preliminary Clerical Court. Though we understand that neither he nor his lawyer have heard confirmation of a verdict from the Preliminary Clerical Court, where he was tried in October on charges of apostasy in connection with his peaceful participation in the academic conference sponsored by the Heinrich Böll Institute in April
2000, we are profoundly troubled by signals we are receiving that the verdict and sentences have indeed been entered against him.
PEN has repeatedly protested the prosecution of 19 writers and intellectuals in connection with the Berlin conference as a clear violation of their right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory. To PEN and to many in the international community, sentencing Mr. Eshkevari to death for his participation in the conference represents the most extreme violation of this right. We therefore sincerely hope that any sentences already entered against him will be annulled and all outstanding charges against him be dismissed.
Meanwhile, we seek immediate assurances that he is safe and is being treated humanely according to international standards; we appeal to you to grant him immediate access to his family and attorney; and we respectfully reiterate our calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs