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IRAN: PEN International raises concerns over writers' return to prison

Thursday 14 April 2022 - 2:59pm

PEN International raises concerns over writers' return to prison

PEN International is gravely concerned over the health and well-being of prominent Iranian writers, Reza Khandan Mahabadi and Nargess Mohammadi as the Iranian authorities decided to end their medical furlough and order them back to jail. PEN International holds the Iranian authorities fully responsible for Mohammadi and Mahabadi’s health and well-being and renews its calls to immediately and unconditionally release them and drop all charges against them.

In response to the news, President of PEN International Burhan Sonmez said: “Writers should never be sent to jail for their writings. Reza and Narges should be celebrated and honoured for their contributions to the Iranian literary scene. They should be free among their families, friends, and readers, not in a dismal prison cell. We call upon the Iranian authorities to immediately release them and ensure they are treated with dignity and respect and receive adequate medical care pending their release.”

On 12 April 2022, PEN international learned that Iranian intelligence officers arrested writer and human rights defender Narges Mohammadi at her home. According to Narges' husband, the prominent writer and journalist Taghi Rahmani, she was ready to return to prison, but the family was shocked at the heavy-handed behaviour of the intelligence services when at least seven officers were sent to Narges’ home to arrest her. The family reported that she was ill-treated and insulted by the officers while being arrested.

Narges Mohammadi was released on medical furlough following heart surgery in February 2022. PEN International previously warned that Mohammadi is at risk of flogging and retaliatory imprisonment following her arrest in November 2021. In January 2022, Iranian authorities brought further charges against her, including “assembly and collusion to act against national security” and “acting against national security and disrupting public order.” Following a summary trial in the absence of legal counsel, Mohammadi was sentenced to an additional eight years and two months in prison, and 74 lashes. The sentence also imposes further punishments, including internal exile, a ban on giving statements to the media, using social media platforms, or participating in political groups.

Earlier on 5 April, the Iranian Writers Association said that Raza Khandan Mahabadi had returned to Tehran's notorious Evin Prison to continue his sentence after the authorities summoned him. In December 2021, authorities transferred Mahabadi from prison to the Taleghani Hospital in Tehran as his health condition worsened due to a Covid infection. Following appeals from his family and lawyers, he was granted medical furlough on 25 December, to recover from Covid. In a recent moving message, Mahabadi wrote I am coming back”, before he presented himself to the prison authorities. In the message he describes that he is still recovering from coronary heart disease and its complications, adding further concerns over his health and well-being.

In March 2022, a leaked video from Evin prison showed extreme overcrowding and poor conditions under which inmates are kept. Iranian Writers have consistently expressed their concerns to PEN international over the deplorable prison conditions, including ill-treatment, and use of prolonged solitary confinement.

Background:

Narges Mohammadi is an Iranian writer, journalist, human rights defender, and Honorary Member of the Danish, Belgian, Norwegian, and Swedish PEN centres. She is the former Vice-President and spokesperson of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), which advocates for human rights reform and represents political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in legal proceedings. In 2013 Mohammadi received the Oxfam Novib / PEN Award. She was arrested on serval occasions over the past years and spent prolonged periods in arbitrary imprisonment. In May 2021, Narges Mohammadi was handed a new sentence of 30 months in prison and 80 lashes, a few months following her release in October 2020 after serving five and a half years in prison. The new charges against her included “propaganda against the regime,” “defamation,” and “rebellious conduct while incarcerated.” Mohammadi believes that her conviction came in retaliation over a complaint she made against the Evin prison director.

Reza Khandan-Mahabadi, Baktash Abtin and Keyvan Bazhan are members of the Iranian Writers’ Association (IWA), and each has published numerous books on Iranian history, sociology and literary criticism. In May 2019, the 28th Branch of the Revolutionary Court sentenced all three writers to six years’ imprisonment for “spreading propaganda against the regime” and “assembly and collusion against national security.” Their conviction stemmed from their joint authorship of a book about the history of the IWA, which has for decades been critical of successive Iranian governments.

Click here for Mahabadi's books, here for Abtin’s books, here for Bazhan’s books and here for more information on Nargess’ case.

Note to editors:

For more information, please contact Mina Thabet, MENA Regional Coordinator, at PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, Unit A, 162-164 Abbey St, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: Mina.Thabet@pen-international.org