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Iran's Khamenei Urged To Pardon Condemned Poets

Fatemeh Ekhtesari (left) and Mehdi Musavi have been sentenced to years in prison and lashes for "insulting the sacred" in their writings, a decision slammed by freedom-of-expression activists.

In a letter signed by more than 110 poets and writers, an advocacy group that promotes free expression worldwide has urged Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to grant pardons to two poets sentenced to long prison terms and floggings.

The letter, posted on the PEN American Center's website on October 30, expressed deep concern over the "inhuman sentences" levied against Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Musavi "for the simple act of expressing themselves by creating art."

Last month, Ekhtesari and Musavi were sentenced to prison terms of 11 1/2 years and nine years, respectively, after being convicted of charges that include "insulting sanctities."

They were also each sentenced to receive 99 lashes for "kissing [the cheeks] and shaking hands with unrelated members [of the opposite sex.]"

Musavi has called the charges against him and Ekhtesari a "joke."

With reporting by The New York Times
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