Writers in prison - Akbar Ganji

Iran's fearless investigative journalist Akbar Ganji is serving a six-year prison sentence in Evin jail, Tehran. He was originally arrested after he attended a conference entitled "Iran After the Elections", held in Berlin in April 2000. Previously, Ganji had written articles implicating leading Iranian figures, including President Rafsanjani, in the murder of dissident writers.

His bestselling writings, collected as Dungeon of Ghosts, contributed to the defeat of the conservatives in the elections of February 2000. Ganji was originally sentenced to ten years plus five years' internal exile. On appeal, this was reduced to six months. Renewed charges dating back to early 2000 led to his present sentence, imposed on 16 July 2001. Himself a devout follower of Islam, Ganji wrote in an interview with the western press: "I have no doubt democracy and a civil society will be our future. Maybe we will have to fight for that for two or three more years. But in the end there will be no other way."

Ganji's health is poor. Appeals for his release can be sent to:

His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed'Ali Khamenei
The Presidency
Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran.

Rachel Billington was president of English PEN from 1997-2000

This article first appeared in the 15 April 2002 issue of the New Statesman, Who does he think he is?