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Rushdie: When Will It End?

February 21, 1993|Excerpt from a Feb. 9 letter from the writers' organization, PEN Center USA West, to President Bill Clinton:

On Feb. 14, 1989, Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini pronounced a death sentence on (Salman) Rushdie, author of "The Satanic Verses," and other persons associated with the book for blasphemy against Islam. Since that day, the writer has been living in hiding, venturing outside only on rare occasions to remind the world of his plight. Since then, the book's Italian and Japanese translators were assaulted, resulting in the latter's death.

Regrettably, in its public actions, the Bush Administration consistently failed to demonstrate its determination to bring about a rescinding of this religious decree. We are, however, encouraged by the recent efforts of the German and Canadian parliaments and the Danish, Swedish and Norwegian governments to press for a lifting of the death sentence by presenting the issue to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and we invite your Administration to lend its full support to this undertaking.

. . . According to the Los Angeles Times, Iran's present leader, Hashemi Rafsanjani, in a press conference . . . sought to distance himself from his predecessor's decree, calling it a mere "opinion" and a "technical issue." He also indicated an openness to improve relations with the United States.

We trust that you will seize this moment to inform the Iranian government of your unwillingness to tolerate the persistent violation of Rushdie's internationally recognized right to free expression, and that you will express your refusal to engage in any efforts toward an amelioration of our country's present relationship with Iran prior to the lifting of the death sentence.

Readers wishing to add their voice to PEN's should write:

President Bill Clinton

The White House

Washington, D.C. 20500

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