GENEVA — Iran is preventing dissident writer Emaddedin Baghi from leaving the country to collect an international human rights prize, the organisers said Monday.
Baghi, an Iranian campaigner against the death penalty, is the first laureate in the 18-year history of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders to have been prevented from attending the award ceremony.
Previous incumbents have included another renowned rights campaigner from Iran, dissident journalist Akbar Ganji, as well as from China, Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Nigeria, Syria, Russia and several other nations.
However, Baghi, who has headed the Committee for the Defence of Prisoners' Rights, has recorded a video message for the ceremony later Monday in the Swiss city of Geneva and a statement by him will also be read out.
"Regrettably, Emad (Emaddedin) Baghi has not been allowed to travel abroad to receive the Award," the Ennals Award said in a statement.
"He has become the first laureate in the 18-year history of the Award who has not been allowed to receive his prize in person. This is a historical precedent," it added.
The winner of the award, aimed at encouraging human rights campaigners who are regarded as at risk and in need of immediate protection, was announced in May.
Baghi, described as a writer and theologian, was praised "for his courage to stand up for his conviction that the Koran condones neither the death penalty nor arbitrary killings and detention."
The chairman of the Ennals jury, Hans Thoolen, has described him as "an exceptionally brave man defending human rights despite imprisonment and poor health."
He has served several jail terms in Iran on charges of propaganda against the regime and for having ties with opposition groups, while also receiving awards from Western countries for his work.
Ten leading human rights groups jointly award the prize, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights, World Organization Against Torture and International Commission of Jurists.