After 27 years of silence, the Swedish institution which awards the Nobel Prize for Literature denounced the Iranian fatwa on British writer Salman Rushdie.
The Swedish Academy in a statement on its website March 24 for the first time blasted the fatwa and reward money for Rushdie's death as "flagrant breaches of international law."
It added that the fatwa can "in no way be compatible with normalization" of relations with the West under Iran's landmark nuclear agreement with world powers last year.
Academy head Tomas Riad said it revisited the Rushdie matter because of the nuclear accord and a recent $600,000 increase in the amount of money being offered for Rushdie's assassination by 40 state-run media outlets in Iran.
"The principle of the independence of literature from political control is of fundamental importance for civilization and must be defended against attacks by avengers and the adherents of censorship," he said.
"The fact that the death sentence has been passed as punishment for a work of literature also implies a serious violation of free speech."
The academy in 1989 had declined to take a position on the fatwa, saying it was torn between showing its support for Rushdie and maintaining its neutrality. The decision to be silent prompted two academy members to quit.
The death threat was issued against Rushdie by Iran's then supreme leader, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, for Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses" about the prophet Muhammad, which Khomeini deemed blasphemous.
Rushdie called the fatwa "a first note of the dark music" in his 2012 memoir.
Born in India to non-practicing Muslims and himself an atheist, Rushdie was forced to go underground.
The British government placed him under police protection after the murder or attempted murder of his translators and publishers.
With reporting by AFP, AP, and dpa