New York (AFP)

Jodie Foster, Awkwafina, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Wole Soyinka: the New York of Arts and Letters will call on Tuesday for the release of three imprisoned Iranian writers, on the occasion of the gala of the organization for the defense of literature and human rights, Pen America.

This Pen America gala evening, the first after 18 months of pandemic in New York, is devoted to "Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bajan and Réza Khandan Mahabadi, three writers imprisoned by the Iranian authorities for their writings, their defense of the freedom of 'expression and their peaceful opposition to state censorship,' according to the organization.

"The poet and filmmaker Abtin, the novelist and journalist Bajan and the writer and literary critic Khandan Mahabadi" were sentenced in May 2019 to six years in prison after "spurious prosecutions citing national security", recalled the group in a statement.

All three imprisoned since September 2020 in the Iranian prison of Evin, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, MM.

Abtin and Khandan Mahabadi contracted the coronavirus, according to Pen America.

Its director general, Suzanne Nossel, blasted in the press release an "Iranian government which targets three sacred monsters of Iranian literary circles, whose only weapon is their intellect, and which thus exposes the moral bankruptcy of a regime so afraid of his survival that he seeks to eradicate all independent thought ".

The annual Pen America gala is part of a series of revivals of the great social and cultural evenings that have made New York City's historic reputation, before being ravaged by the pandemic in 2020, such as the extravagant gala the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) in mid-September or the reopening of Broadway theaters.

Pen America's party is to be held at the prestigious American Museum of Natural History, on the edge of Central Park, with 800 guests and stars of film, music and literature: actress and director Jodie Foster, rapper and Chinese-born New York actress Awkwafina, the 1986 Nobel Laureate for Literature, Nigerian Wole Soyinka, and Puerto Rican-born New York actor and songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda.

© 2021 AFP