Meryl Streep signs letter urging release of jailed Iranians
Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bajan and Reza Khandan, all of whom are members of the anti-censorship Iranian Writers Association, are serving a collective 15-and-a-half years in prison after a government crackdown on the group.
The three were charged with national security and propaganda charges and have been in prison since September 2020.
The letter, organised by PEN America and signed by Oscar award-winning actress and prolific actress Meryl Streep as well as renowned writers including Margaret Atwood and J.M. Coetzee urged Raisi to grant them freedom.
"We call upon you, President Raisi, to release Abtin, Bajan, and Khandan Mahabadi; acquit them of all charges in the legal case wrongfully brought against them; and cease official retribution against all writers exercising their right to express themselves freely," read the letter shared this week.
Abtin is a filmmaker, and Bajan is a novelist and journalist.
Khandan, an author, literary critic, popular culture researcher, and a human rights lawyer who has been in and out of Iranian prisons since 2011.
Iran has been one of the world's most heavily impacted nations by the virus, and many high-profile inmates have contracted the virus while held in the country's overcrowded prisons.
"All three writers have been denied hospital visits for necessary medical care while at the prison," the letter read.
PEN said earlier this month that the three writers would be awarded this year's PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. The accolade is designed to honour artists jailed for their work.
Iran is notorious for jailing and even executing opponents to the regime's strict rule.
Raisi, an ultraconservative, was elected president in June. Human rights groups had raised the alarm on his human rights record in his former role as judiciary chief.