Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Iran Jails Iranian-American Academic

UPDATE: Check out the new blog covering the Mid East: Outsider On The Inside

Haleh Esfandiari, an Iranian-American academic who works for the Woodrow Wilson International Center For Scholars, has been detained in Iran after spending months under house arrest. There are three Iranian-American "soft hostages" currently detained in Iran:

Esfandiari, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who has lived in the United States for more than a quarter-century, has been under virtual house arrest since December, when the government refused to allow her to leave Iran after visiting her 93-year-old mother. Since then, she has been summoned repeatedly for interrogations by intelligence officials about U.S. programs on Iran. In particular, she was questioned about Iran programs at the Wilson Center, a prominent foreign policy think tank.

Esfandiari was summoned by the Intelligence Ministry again Tuesday but was then taken to Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, the sources said.

She is one of three "soft hostages," dual U.S.-Iranian nationals, whose passports have been confiscated by the Iranian government.

Until Esfandiari' s detention Tuesday, the Wilson Center and her family had sought to avoid publicity in hopes she would be granted a new passport.

Esfandiari and the other soft hostages appear caught up in an Iranian reaction to the Bush administration's $75 million program to promote democracy in Iran, unveiled last year. Tehran has since cracked down on human-rights advocates, labor groups and women's rights campaigners, according to human-rights activists.

During her interrogations, Esfandiari was pressured to make false confessions or to falsely implicate the Wilson Center in activities in which it had no role, Hamilton said.

On Monday she was told to report to the Ministry of Intelligence again. When she arrived Tuesday, she was taken to Evin Prison. It is unclear whether she has been formally charged.

 
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