Iran: Haleh Esfiandiari and other Iranian-American citizens unlawfully arrested and detained

Incommunicado detention of and judicial proceedings against several Iranian-American citizens including Dr. Haleh Esfiandiari, director of the Middle East programme at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC. Dr. Esfiandiari was arrested in Tehran on 8th May 2007 after being summoned for questioning by Ministry of Intelligence officials and was taken to section 209 of Evin prison, where she was allowed one call to inform her relatives that she had been jailed. Dr. Esfandiari is also a well-known advocate of dialogue between the US and Iranian governments.
Dr. Esfandiari, a scholar with both American and Iranian citizenship, had been in Iran visiting her 93-year-old mother when she was prevented from leaving on 30th December 2006 and both her passports were taken. She was interrogated repeatedly before her arrest.
On May 8, security forces took Dr. Haleh Esfiandiari to Evin Prison, though she has not been formally charged with any crime. Evin Prison is notorious for its harsh treatment of political prisoners. In 2003, Iranian-Canadian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi was killed during her interrogation in the prison.

On 12th May 2007, the state-controlled newspaper Kayhan accused her of spying for the US and Israel and of trying to incite a democratic revolution in the country.

On 29th May 2007, Mr. Ali Reza Jamshidi, Iran’s judiciary spokesman, said that Dr. Haleh Esfandiari was “formally charged” with “endangering national security” through propaganda against the system and “espionage for foreigners”. Under Iran’s law, the charge could carry the death sentence.

Mr. Jamshidi further stated that the same charges had also been lodged against two other Iranian-Americans, Mr. Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant, and journalist Ms. Parnaz Azima. No trial date was announced and Mr. Jamshidi said the Intelligence Ministry was still investigating their cases. Mr. Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American social scientist as well as a consultant working for the New York-based Open Society Institute, was arrested at his home in Tehran by agents of the Ministry of Information and brought to section 209 of Evin prison around 11th May 2007. He seems to have been detained in incommunicado detention without access to legal counsel. According to the Institute, Mr. Tajbakhsh had been helping “to facilitate public health, humanitarian assistance and urban planning projects that [they] undertook openly and with the knowledge of the Iranian government”.

Ms. Parnaz Azima, a reporter for the U.S.-funded Radio Farda, the Persian-language service run jointly by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and Voice of America, has been prohibited from leaving Iran since her passport was seized in January 2007. At the time of writing, she was not imprisoned but was unable to leave the country.

Finally, another dual citizen, Mr. Ali Shakeri, is also believed to have been banned from leaving Iran. No further information could be obtained on his situation as of the time of issuing this appeal.

Information collected from the The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Free Haleh campaign, and WLUML networkers.

OMCT, etc.