Soundgarden, Sonic Youth, R.E.M., Tool Address Egyptian Leader

March 11 [16:00 EST]-- Tool, Sonic Youth, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., and Soundgarden's Kim Thayil were among the artists who signed off on a letter to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak condemning the governmentºs persecution of Egyptian heavy metal fans.

Van Halen, Rush, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Joan Baez, Toad The Wet Sprocket, The Tea Party, Joan Armatrading, Jackson Browne, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo also attached their names to the letter, which was in response to the Egyptian government's arrest and imprisonment of approximately 100 teenage heavy metal fans. The teens were reportedly rounded up by Egyptian police on charges of "contempt of heavenly religion" and held for weeks. The Egyptian government reportedly released the last four of the teens last week.

"These arrests raise questions about Egypt's commitment to freedom of expression," the letter reads. "The use of security forces to intimidate young people because of their choice in music may be symptomatic

of the increasing number of human rights abuses on the part of the Egyptian government."

"No one should be intimidated, harassed or arrested simply for listening to music," the letter states.

The statement was delivered to President Mubarak during his visit to Washington, D.C. this week.