FEBRUARY 4, 1997
Iranian writer and publisher Faraj Sarkuhi has once again been arrestedin Iran, and faces torture and possible execution. Along with his brotherIsmail, Faraj Sarkuhi was formally arrested on Jan. 28, and is being heldincommunicado. The Foundation for Democracy in Iran joins the PEN AmericanCenter and other groups in denouncing this outrageous attempt by the intelligenceservices of the Islamic Republic of Iran to intimidate journalists andintellectuals and to muzzle free speech.
But Sarkuhi's arrest is not just an attack on fundamental freedoms.It is also a cynical slap in the face to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl,since it occurred just as German Economics Minister Jurgen Molleman announcedthat Europe should pursue "normal dialogue" and commercial contractswith Tehran, not "critical" dialogue. Molleman had just returnedfrom Tehran where he was negotiating the sale of 10-12 Airbus airliners,and told the German Press Agency that German companies stood to win hugecontracts for petrochemical plants, railroad deals, and steel mills ifEurope would only "take the initiative" to abandon U.S. attemptsto pressure Tehran.
Sarkuhi's Jan. 28 arrest is not his first time behind bars. The publisherof a monthly cultural journal, Adineh, Sarkuhi was one of 134 Iranian writersand intellectuals who signed a 1994 appeal calling on the authorities toabolish censorship. In August 1996, Sarkuhi and five other writers werearrested and interrogated when Intelligence Ministry agents burst intothe Tehran home of German Cultural attaché Jens Gust, where theyhad been invited for dinner. On Sept. 8, 1996, Sarkuhi was detained forthree days again along with twelve members of the Iranian Union of Writers.On November 3, 1996, Sarkuhi was arrested again - and threatened with death.
Now Sarkuhi has smuggled out of Iran an extraordinary 14 page hand-writtenletter - portions of which FDI has published on the Internet - describingin detail his Kafkaesque arrest and torture by the Tehran authorities inNovember, and the fake videotaped confessions extracted from him whilehe was in jail. "It has been officially announced that you have leftIran and your arrival in Hamburg has been registered," Sarkuhi sayshe was told. "You will spend some time here in jail and then be killed,your body dumped either here or in Germany after proper interrogation..."Sarkuhi said he believed he was "the victim of a plot hatched by the[Intelligence] Ministry of Iran... I realized that their objective wasto use me and some others to counter the Mykonos case."
Under pressure from international human rights groups, the authoritiesin Tehran abandoned these plans and staged Sarkuhi's "reappearance"on December 20, at a hastily-arranged press conference at Tehran's Mehrebadairport.
With his re-arrest on Jan. 28, there is reason to fear the authoritieswill carry out their earlier threats to murder him, all in a cynical attemptto put pressure on Germany to acquit Iranian intelligence agents on trialin the Mykonos case in Berlin for the September 1992 murder of four IranianKurdish dissidents.
The Foundation for Democracy in Iran calls on European governments andinternational human rights organizations to intervene with Tehran to winSarkuhi's release. FDI believes that the government of Germany bears aspecial responsibility in this case and should double its efforts on behalfof Mr. Sarkuhi.