Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been urged to pardon two poets who have been sentenced to 99 lashes each and a total of 20 years in jai for supposedly insulting religion.
More than 100 poets, including Robert Pinsky, Claudia Rankine, Billy Collins, John Ashbery, and Tracy K Smith, have signed a letter urging Khamenei to annul sentences given to Mehdi Mousavi and Fatemeh Ekhtesari.
Mousavi, 41, and Ekhtesari, 31, have been sentenced respectively to nine and eleven-and-a-half years in prison after an exiled singer deemed disrespectful of religion used their work in two of his albums.
The pair were initially arrested in December 2013 in connection with Shahin Najafi, a controversial Germany-based Iranian rapper, but were released on bail. They have also been condemned to 99 lashes each for shaking hands with unrelated members of the opposite sex, presumably each other. / Saeed Kamali Dehghan, The Guardian
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