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Three Iranian Authors Imprisoned In Tehran's Notorious Jail

Iranian writers, Reza Khandan Mahabadi, Baktash Abtin, and Keyvan Bajan

In a statement on Saturday, September 26, the Iranian Writers Association (IWA) said that three of its members had been placed behind bars in Tehran's infamous Evin prison.

Baktash Abtin, Kayvan Bazhan, and Reza Khandan have started their prison term while the coronavirus pandemic is underway, with the condition of inmates in Tehran havinb been described as "deplorable."

According to the official Facebook page of the IWA, two members of the board of directors of the association, Abtin and Khandan, with Bazhan being a former member of the organization, were transferred to the prison at about 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.

The three authors had previously been summoned on June 21, but their imprisonment was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

A judge renowned for his harsh verdicts against political and human rights advocates, Mohammad Moqisseh, had initially condemned the three writers to six years jail in May last year.

Following an appeal, another hardline judge, Ahmad Zargar, upheld the verdict against Abtin and Khandan but reduced Bazhan's sentence to three and a half years.

According to the IWA statement, the Appeals Court sentenced the three in absentia, even without their attorneys' presence.

The three are charged with "membership in the Writers' Association of Iran, publishing the association's internal newsletter, preparing a research book on the IWA's fifty-year history for internal publication, compiling the association's statements, visiting the graves of the two of political chain murder's victims, IWA members, Jafar Pooyandeh and Mohammad Mokhtari, and attending the annual ceremony to commemorate a contemporary Iranian poet, Ahmad Shamloo.

The trial and harsh sentencing of the three members of the IWA has so far provoked numerous reactions from domestic and international activists.

In a statement last year, more than 900 writers, poets, essayists, and journalists in Iran condemned the harsh verdicts against the trio as an "unjustified" and "severe damage to the fundamental rights of all Iranians" that "kills freedom."

The statement, published on May 19, 2019, called upon the Islamic Republic judiciary to immediately and unconditionally exonerate Abtin, Bazhan and Khandan Mahabadi.

The 900 signatories to the statement insisted that the three writers were convicted for enjoying their right to freedom of expression and expressing their opinion.

Earlier, PEN International said that it is deeply concerned about the three Iranian writers' ongoing trial.

"We stand in solidarity with our Iranian colleagues who are targeted due to their writing and peaceful activism. We call on the Iranian authorities to drop all charges against them and to respect their right to freedom of expression," said Rebecca Sharkey, Campaigns and Communications Director of PEN International.

Calling upon the Iranian authorities to immediately release them, PEN International also maintained that the three's charges violated their right to freedom of expression.

The Iranian Writers Association is the first professional association of Iranian writers, which was established in 1968 by prominent authors, poets, novelists, and playwrights, including Jalal Al-i Ahmad, Dariush Asouri, Bahram Bayza'ei, Esma'eil Nouri Ala', and Mohammad Ali Sepanloo.

Although it supported the Islamic Revolution of 1979, members of the IWA have repeatedly been subject to harassment and prosecution. Mohammad-Jafar Pouyandeh and Mohammad Mokhtari were among the victims of the serial killings of intellectuals by Intelligence Ministry agents in 1998.