A court in Iran has sentenced three writers to a total of 18 years in prison after convicting them of crimes against national security.
Reza Khandan Mahabadi, Baktash Abtin and Kayvan Bajan, were convicted of "propaganda against the state" and "acting against national security” and sentenced each to six years in prison late last week, reports said.
Their trial was held in April.
The charges are often brought against intellectuals and critics of the Iranian clerical establishment.
The three are members of the Iranian Writers Association, which has come under pressure by authorities who have summoned, threatened, and jailed its members.
"This trial is not just the condemnation of three writers. This was not a trial against the Writers Association alone. It’s a condemnation of all writers and others who want to enjoy the right to free expression," the group said in a May 15 statement while suggesting that authorities did not provide any solid evidence to back the charges.
'Travesty Of Justice'
The New York-based center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) condemned the "unjust and unlawful" prison sentences for Khandan Mahabadi, Abtin and Badajan as "a travesty of justice."
"Iranian authors, artists and musicians are a part of Iran's heritage. They create and expand the culture. Using kangaroo courts to put them behind bars for peacefully expressing themselves is a travesty of justice," CHRI’s executive director Hadi Ghaemi said in a May 17 statement.
In a statement published earlier this month, PEN International had expressed concern about the trial of the three writers while calling on Iranian authorities to drop all the charges against them and respect their right to freedom of expression.
"PEN International is alarmed about the large number of writers and activists in Iran who have been detained or imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression," the group said.
The writers have 20 days to appeal their verdicts.