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Thread: 3 Iranian-Americans Charged With Spying

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    3 Iranian-Americans Charged With Spying

    3 Iranian-Americans Charged With Spying

    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/worl...=1&oref=slogin

    By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Published: May 29, 2007

    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Three Iranian-Americans, including U.S. academic Haleh Esfandiari, have been charged with endangering national security and espionage, Iran's judiciary spokesman said Tuesday.

    The charges, which were denied by relatives and colleagues, were another example of Iran's stepped up accusations that the U.S. is trying to use internal critics to destabilize the government.

    ''Esfandiari has been formally charged with endangering national security through propaganda against the system and espionage for foreigners. ... The complainant is the Intelligence Ministry,'' judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi told reporters.

    ''She has been informed of the charges against her,'' he said in response to a reporter's question.

    Jamshidi did not say when the allegations had been read to Esfandiari, who is the director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. She has been held at Tehran's Evin Prison since early May.

    Esfandiari's husband, Shaul Bakhash, said the allegations were ''totally without foundation.''

    ''I think it certainly ratchets up the case against her several notches in a rather menacing way, and is therefore very worrisome,'' Bakhash said from his home in Potomac, Md.

    Lee H. Hamilton, president of the Wilson Center, said Esfandiari's detention was ''an affront to the rule of law and common decency.''

    ''The Wilson Center's message to the Iranian government is simple: Let Haleh go,'' he said in a statement.

    Jamshidi said the same charges had been lodged against Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant with George Soros' Open Society Institute, and journalist Parnaz Azima. No trial date has been announced, and Jamshidi said the investigation against all three is continuing.

    Tuesday's announcement was the first time the government confirmed the arrest of Tajbakhsh, who also has worked for the World Bank and was believed to have been taken into custody around May 11, according to the Open Society Institute. Azima, who works for the U.S.-funded Radio Farda, was detained but released and barred from leaving the country.

    Laura Silber, a spokeswoman for the New York-based Open Society Institute, said the organization was ''dismayed at the charges'' against Tajbakhsh, an ''internationally respected scholar.''

    ''The charges are completely without merit,'' Silber told The Associated Press by telephone. ''We are very concerned for Dr. Tajbakhsh's safety and urge the Iranian authorities to release him immediately.''

    In Washington, the State Department said it had no information about any formal charges being lodged but urged the detainees' release. ''They certainly pose no threat or challenge to the regime and we continue to believe they should be released as soon as possible,'' deputy spokesman Tom Casey said.

    The Iranian Intelligence Ministry has accused Esfandiari and her organization of trying to set up networks of Iranians with the ultimate goal of creating a ''soft revolution'' in Iran, along the lines of the revolutions that ended communist rule in Eastern Europe. The ministry alleges the Open Society Institute, which seeks to promote democracy, was part of the conspiracy.

    The Wilson Center and the Open Society Institute deny the allegations.

    Under Iranian law, the distinction between someone being accused and charged is less clear than in the United States and many Western countries, especially in matters of national security. Security courts have wide latitude, with the option of dropping the proceedings at any time or holding trials in secret.

    However, Jamshidi's statement that specific allegations had been read to Esfandiari and the others indicates the cases have been raised to a new level.

    The French Foreign Ministry said it was ''concerned by the recent hardening'' of Iran authorities toward researchers, journalists and non-governmental organizations, ''particularly binationals.''

    The possibility for such people to safely visit Iran ''guarantees Iran's opening to the world,'' it said in a statement.

    The 67-year-old Esfandiari has for years brought prominent Iranians to Washington to talk about the political situation in Iran, some of whom have been subsequently detained and questioned at home. Her defenders say some of those she brought to the U.S. were supporters of the Iranian government who sought to explain Tehran's stance.

    Esfandiari had been trapped in Iran since visiting her 93-year-old mother in December, when three masked men with knives stole her luggage and passport as she headed to the airport to leave, the Wilson Center said. In the weeks before her arrest, she was called in for questioning daily, it said.

    Iran has escalated accusations against the U.S., saying last week it had uncovered spy rings organized by the U.S. and its Western allies.

    Tensions have mounted between the two countries over Iran's nuclear program and U.S. allegations that the Iranians have been supporting armed groups in Iraq.

    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government has also increased restrictions on local non-governmental organizations, particularly women's rights groups and other critics.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    Spy charges against three US-Iranians "absurd": US

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070529...y_070529183231

    Tue May 29, 2:32 PM ET

    WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States rejected as "absurd" on Tuesday Iranian allegations of spying against three US-Iranian nationals.

    Iran announced earlier Tuesday that US-Iranian scholars Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh were being held in prison on accusations of espionage while journalist Parnaz Azima remained free but faced the same charges.

    "It's absurd to allege that they are American spies, American government employees, or that anything they've been doing in Iran is driven by American government concerns," said State Department spokesman Tom Casey.

    "These are individuals who are private citizens," he said.

    "They are not party to any of the policy disputes between the government of the United States and the government of Iran."

    Casey said Iranian authorities had ignored multiple requests by Switzerland, which represents US interests in Tehran, for consular access to the three accused.

    Iran, which does not recognize dual nationality for its citizens, has not officially informed US authorities about the three cases, he said.

    "We continue to urge the Iranian government to let them go, to let them go back to visiting their families, to come back home to be with their families here, and to continue the very basic people-to-people kind of work that they've been pursuing in Iran for many years," he said.

    The US official also sought to play down speculation linking the treatment by Tehran of dual US-Iranian citizens and high diplomatic tensions between the two governments, notably over Iran's nuclear program and its alleged support for anti-US insurgents in
    Iraq.

    "We don't see any linkage between it and those other issues," he said.

    Iran announced the spying charges against the three dual nationals a day after senior US and Iranian diplomats met in Baghdad for the highest level talks between the two nations in decades.

    Casey said the issue of the three did not come up at the meeting, which was focussed on efforts to stabilize Iraq.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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