President Obama Speaks Out on Iran Violence (Source: White House)

By , December 28, 2009 7:00 am

Following another violent crackdown in Iran against peaceful protesters on December 27, the U.S. White House issued a statement quoting President Barack Obama’s public condemnation of the violence and call for justice:

“…Before I leave, let me also briefly address the events that have taken place over the last few days in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens, which has apparently resulted in detentions, injuries, and even death.

For months, the Iranian people have sought nothing more than to exercise their universal rights. Each time they have done so, they have been met with the iron fist of brutality, even on solemn occasions and holy days. And each time that has happened, the world has watched with deep admiration for the courage and the conviction of the Iranian people who are part of Iran’s great and enduring civilization.

What’s taking place within Iran is not about the United States or any other country. It’s about the Iranian people and their aspirations for justice and a better life for themselves. And the decision of Iran’s leaders to govern through fear and tyranny will not succeed in making those aspirations go away.

As I said in Oslo, it’s telling when governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation.

Along with all free nations, the United States stands with those who seek their universal rights. We call upon the Iranian government to abide by the international obligations that it has to respect the rights of its own people.

We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained within Iran. We will continue to bear witness to the extraordinary events that are taking place there. And I’m confident that history will be on the side of those who seek justice.”

[Link to statement]

Television interviews with the mother of Kian Tajbakhsh (Source: VOA Persian)

By , December 22, 2009 8:23 pm

VOA Persian has broadcast two television interviews with Kian’s mother Farideh Gueramy. On December 20, Bijan Farhoodi’s popular news program featured a profile of Kian that included a family photo/video montage:

Earlier VOA-PNN interview with show trial photos:

Interview with mother of Iranian-American in Evin prison (Source: BBC World); Jailed Iranian-American Faces 15 Years in Iran Prison (Source: NPR); U.S. Will Not Ignore Iran Protests (Source: CNN)

By , December 20, 2009 7:28 am

BBC, NPR and CNN have featured Kian’s case as his independent lawyer Masoud Shafie confirms the lack of evidence against him and further reports of human rights violations and mass protests in Iran continue to emerge:

The BBC World Service’s “The World Today” program broadcast this BBC interview with Kian’s mother Farideh Gueramy.

National Public Radio aired this NPR profile of Kian on its Weekend Edition Saturday program and posted this blog entry and this story update (also a ‘related’ story on the program explored a recent attack by the Iranian ‘cyber army’ on Twitter’s electronic social network).

While speaking on CNN’s “Amanpour” program, award-winning artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat reminded the show’s participants and viewers about Kian’s plight.
CNN also posted a print summary and transcript of the show:

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, U.S. President Barack Obama accepts the Nobel Peace Prize, and he says America is bearing witness to the global struggle for rights and justice, including inside Iran. But are those words enough? …

The government’s efforts to stop images of those demonstrations from reaching the rest of the world failed, as you can see from these pictures that emerged via the Internet. Authorities also tried to prevent foreign news organizations from covering the protests, sending SMS messages to their cell phones, telling them that they could not be on the streets for several days this week, but the world still watches.

During his Nobel lecture in Norway, President Obama raised the plight of the protestors, even as he walked the fine line of trying to engage with the very government that is cracking down on them.

And joining me now, the Wall Street Journal’s Farnaz Fassihi. She’s been tracking evidence of Iranian authorities trying to intimidate Iranians even abroad, and John Limbert, the deputy assistant secretary for Iran at the U.S. State Department, and Iranian artist, Shirin Neshat, who won the Silver Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival for her film “Women without Men” and who’s become a voice of protest outside Iran…

AMANPOUR: So the president clearly there said, “They have us on their side.” What does that mean, John Limbert, if the United States is declaring that it’s on the side of the people there?

LIMBERT: It’s very clear, Christiane. We will not sit silently. We will not ignore what happens on the streets of Tehran. And we believe, as we have always believed, that the Iranian people deserve decent treatment from their government.

AMANPOUR: And you say you won’t sit silently, but at the same time, obviously, there are diplomatic negotiations that have go on, most particularly over the nuclear clock. There’s the possibility of sanctions going on. How do you walk that line of engagement and being on the side of the legitimate aspirations of the people?

LIMBERT: No, of course. That’s — that’s a good question. I think, Christiane, our diplomacy is good enough that we can do both, that we can make clear statements of support for the aspirations of the Iranian people for decent treatment from their government. At the same time, we can certainly talk with the government and the authorities there about things like the nuclear issue or Iraq or Afghanistan or — or other issues. And we have clearly offered to do so, and we are determined to do so in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

AMANPOUR: Let me turn to Shirin Neshat, not only an acclaimed artist, but also now a public voice for those protestors who are inside Iran. Do you believe that the world is paying sufficient attention and their human rights and legitimate aspirations are being embraced by the West?

SHIRIN NESHAT, FILMMAKER AND ARTIST: Christiane, let me tell you how it looks on our side. I feel that the students in Iran, the people of Iran, and the people of Iran outside of Iran are setting a great example of people who are truly fighting for democracy. And this creates a sense of hope for the rest of the region, the entire world, but we don’t feel that we have the sufficient support or the protection that is necessary.

And I think many Iranians inside and outside feel that they’ve been betrayed, particularly…


NESHAT: … with this emphasis on the nuclear weapon issue. It has distracted the world from paying attention to the atrocity that is taking place today in Iran. All of us are at risk, and we’re particularly — a lot of us are American citizens, as well, several in prison. We don’t see much support on this government showing direct action to help them out. And — and I think this is really a disappointment on Iranian side.

AMANPOUR: Let me press you, Mr. Limbert. Shirin raises the issue of Americans who are currently in jail in Iran. What is the government doing? And do you have any indication that they’re going to be — they’re going to be released, for instance, the three hikers?

LIMBERT: Well, I would like to see them released as soon as possible. We all would like them to be. This has — this has been very unfortunate. Our hearts go out to these innocent people who clearly wandered across an unmarked border and have been in custody for much — for much too long. We are pursuing all available avenues.

I should note that — that our protecting power in Tehran, the — represented by the Swiss embassy, has been able to visit these people. We are pressing for more visits. We are pressing for better treatment. And, of course, we are pressing for release as soon as possible…

NESHAT: …I think that, particularly these last few days, as the anniversary of the student movement comes, we realize that Iranian people have been fighting for democracy and freedom for over 150 years. And — and — and also, the women of Iran have been also fighting for idea of democracy and equality. So how odd that this struggle continues today with such similarity and force.

And I — can I just make one second comment that the issue of the American passport does not only belong to the American-born, but the Iranian-born, who are also holding American citizenship, including Kian Tajbakhsh. So when I referred to the help and protection, it’s only not for those people who are born in this country, but those who are, you know, currently the citizen of United States…

U.S., U.N. step up calls for Iran human rights (Source: U.S. State Department)

The Obama administration is praising final passage today of a United Nations resolution calling on Iran to respect human rights:

“In passing this resolution, the international community has demonstrated once again its deep concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran and the government’s failure to uphold its obligations under its own constitution and international human rights law,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood said in a statement:

“The resolution, first adopted last month by the U.N. Third Committee, expresses deep concern over the brutal response of Iranian authorities to peaceful demonstrations in the wake of the June 12 election. It calls on the government of Iran to abolish torture and arbitrary imprisonment, as well as any executions carried out without due process of law. Furthermore, it calls for the end of execution of minors, as well as the use of stoning as a means of execution. The resolution also calls on Iran to release political prisoners, including those detained following the June election. Finally, the resolution calls on Iran to cooperate fully with and admit entry to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance.

Those in Iran who are trying to exercise their universal rights should know that their voices are being heard.”

[Full statement]

The Iranian Hostages are Iran’s Answer to President Obama (Source: Washington Post)

An op ed by the editors of The Washington Post about the American hikers detained in Iran mentions Kian’s case as well:

“IRAN’S EXTREMIST rulers don’t scruple at persecuting innocent people — particularly foreigners — to advance narrow political aims. Since staging what amounted to a coup during June’s presidential election, the regime has arrested and prosecuted a number of Western citizens on bogus charges to reinforce its propaganda, which claims that post-election protests were organized by Western intelligence agencies. One, Iranian American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, was unjustly sentenced to 15 years in prison in October and now faces new charges.

But foreigners are persecuted not only to prove conspiracy theories; they can also be crudely exploited as bargaining chips. That seems to explain the case of three young Americans who apparently wandered across the Iraqi-Iranian border in July while hiking. They were apprehended, tossed into Tehran’s notorious Evin prison and recently were charged with espionage. According to, Iranian authorities have responded to requests for their release on humanitarian grounds by linking them to Iranians in U.S. custody — some of whom have been charged with arms trafficking…

Shane Michael Bauer, 27, Joshua Felix Fattal, 27, and Sarah Emily Shourd, 31, may also be fodder for Iran’s crude version of tit for tat. In 2007, U.S. forces arrested five Iranians in the city of Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, describing them as members of the al-Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps; they were not released until last July. Iraqi officials say that their inquiries to Iran about the American travelers, who were traveling in Kurdistan, have been answered with comparisons to the “Irbil five.”

What’s clear is that the three Americans are innocent of espionage, arms smuggling or of any other offense other than not being aware that they had crossed the border while hiking near a popular waterfall in Iraqi Kurdistan. Mr. Bauer is a freelance journalist; Ms. Shourd a teacher and writer; Mr. Fattal an environmentalist and inveterate traveler. They have now been held for more than 4 1/2 months, without access to a lawyer and with only limited contact with their families. On Monday Iran’s foreign minister said they would be “tried by Iran’s judiciary.”

For the Obama administration, the hikers’ treatment is but one more indication that the regime of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has no interest in the constructive “engagement” that Mr. Obama has offered. Such despicable persecution of innocent people only adds to the reasons the administration should focus its energies on isolating and imposing sanctions on the regime’s leaders, while doing what it can to support the opposition Green movement.”

[Full editorial]

Iranian Scorecard (Source: Wall Street Journal)

An op ed by the editors of the The Wall Street Journal mentions Kian:

“In his Inaugural address, President Obama promised the world’s dictators—with Iran plainly in mind—that he would “extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” Here’s a status report on the mullahs’ knuckles…

• Political gestures. Isolated regimes sometimes signal their desire for better relations through seemingly small gestures: ping-pong tournaments, for instance. Tehran has taken a different tack.

On Monday, it announced that three American hikers arrested along its border with Iraq in July would be put on trial. The charge? “Suspicious aims.” New charges were also brought last month against Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, who was already sentenced to at least 12 years in prison on espionage charges. The regime has been going after other foreign nationals, including French teacher Clotilde Reiss, who is living under house arrest in the French embassy in Tehran. Christopher Dickey notes in Newsweek that “since [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad took over four years ago, some 35 foreign nationals or dual nationals have been imprisoned for use as chump change in one sordid deal or another.” …

[Full editorial]

What Iran Is Doing To Americans (Source: The Atlantic’s Daily Dish)

By , December 16, 2009 10:05 am

The Atlantic‘s high-profile blog has published an entry on Kian’s case:

“On the heels of news that the regime is set to try three American hikers for espionage, this news is particularly troubling:

The case against the Iranian-American social scientist Kian Tajbakhsh contains no evidence to support the allegations against him, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, following interviews with Masoud Shafie, Tajbakhsh’s lawyer. Tajbakhsh has been sentenced to a 15-year prison term for alleged espionage and actions against national security by a lower court and is currently in the appeals stage. The case has also been substantially invalidated by gross breaches of Iranian law and international standards for due process.  […] Espionage is closely defined under Iranian law, and guilt needs to be established by evidence that highly confidential documents were passed to foreign governments. There are no references to such documents in the file.

Tajbakhsh, a renowned scholar and urban planner, was the only US citizen included in the mass show trials that followed the post-election unrest. More information about the man here. A heartbreaking interview with his mother here.”

[Link to article]

[Link to related entry “The “Other” Prisoner” in the British blog Enduring America (0935 and 1835 GMT entries)]

Iran: No Evidence of Espionage in Tajbakhsh’s File, Lawyer Says (Source: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran)

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has published a report detailing the lack of any evidence in Kian’s case file implicating him in a crime under Iranian law:

“The case against the Iranian-American social scientist Kian Tajbakhsh contains no evidence to support the allegations against him, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, following interviews with Masoud Shafie, Tajbakhsh’s lawyer.

Tajbakhsh has been sentenced to a 15-year prison term for alleged espionage and actions against national security by a lower court and is currently in the appeals stage. The case has also been substantially invalidated by gross breaches of Iranian law and international standards for due process.

Shafie recently studied the entire file compiled by prosecutors against Tajbakhsh. There is apparently no correlation between the evidence in his file and the conviction and sentencing of Tajbakhsh, while the file itself is evidence of the blatantly political and arbitrary nature of the case.  Espionage is closely defined under Iranian law, and guilt needs to be established by evidence that highly confidential documents were passed to foreign governments. There are no references to such documents in the file.

The file, only recently seen by Shafie, contains video clips of public demonstrations that Tajbakhsh allegedly emailed which hardly qualify as confidential or classified government documents.  Tajbakhsh had no access to such documents in any event.

Shafie has been continually prevented from seeing his client.  After he reviewed the file, he received permission from the Revolutionary Court, branch 54, which is in charge of reviewing Tajbakhsh’s case as the court of appeal, to visit him in order to finalize the defense statement.

On 12 December, Evin prison authorities would not allow the visit.  He was told to obtain permission from Judge Salavati of branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court.  But Judge Salavati, who presided over the lower court sentencing Tajbakhsh, has no role in the appeals stage, based on applicable regulations.

The authorities in ward 2 A of Evin Prison, under Revolutionary Guard management, did not permit the visit. The defense statement will need to be submitted without a prior meeting between lawyer and client, and their communications have been limited to sporadic telephone calls and messages transmitted by other visitors.

Some of the more egregious violations of due process standards in this case include maintaining the defendant in temporary detention, which violates both Article 182 and Article 37 of the Judicial Proceedings of Penal Courts [Aiin Dadrasi Keyfari]. Under Iranian law, Tajbakhsh had the right to be released on bail after the primary investigation of his case.

Moreover, in his file it is mentioned that Judge Salavati, had ordered his release on bail, stating that Tajbakhsh had refused the offer of bail, and accepted to go to prison, which is patently false.

The process also violated principle 139 of the Constitution and article 188 Judicial Proceedings of Penal Courts which stipulate that a defendant is to remain anonymous until charges against him are approved by the court.   But charges against Tajbakhsh were publicized prior to their being approved by the court.

The charges against Tajbakhsh are without merit because they do not refer to criminal acts.  Under Article 2 of the Islamic Penal Code, any actions that have not been identified as criminal may not be considered as the basis for a criminal charge.  This applies to the acts for which Tajbakhsh is charged, including for example, working as a consultant for the Open Society Institute (OSI) , which is not a crime, Shafie said.

The indictment against Tajbakhsh described his service as a consultant to the OSI, an international foundation, as de facto seditious.  But the activities of the OSI in Iran had been agreed to with the government of the Islamic Republic under a memorandum that defined those activities, and no activities were performed by Tajbakhsh or by the OSI that were not agreed to by Iranian officials, Shafie said. Furthermore, Tajbakhsh’s consultancy with OSI ended in 2007, well before the recent elections.

Finally, the indictment is ridden with factual errors that invalidate it.  Among its unreal claims, for example, is that the defendant participated in illegal demonstrations,  and was arrested while committing this crime, while in fact he was arrested on 9 July, 2009, at 21:00 at his home while he was with his wife.

The Campaign reiterates its appeal to the Judiciary to examine the case against Kian Tajbakhsh in view of the numerous legal irregularities and politicized charges that invalidate it, and to drop the charges so that he may return to his family and scholarly career.”

[Link to report]

وکیل کیان تاجبخش: در پرونده هیچ مستند جاسوسی وجود ندارد

۲۳ آذر ماه ۱۳۸۸ – کمپین بین المللی حقوق بشر در ایران پس از مصاحبه با مسعود شفیعی؛ وکیل تاجبخش، اعلام کرد که پرونده کیان تاجبخش؛ جامعه شناس ایرانی – آمریکایی فاقد هر گونه مستندی در اثبات ادعاهای وارده علیه وی است.

کیان تاجبخش  در دادگاه بدوی به ۱۵ سال زندان به اتهام جاسوسی و اقدام علیه امنیت ملی محکوم شد و در حال حاضرپرونده وی در مرحله تجدید نظر است. دادرسی کیان تاجبخش بخاطر نقض گسترده آئین دادرسی قوانین ایران و معیارهای بین المللی اساسا فاقد اعتبار است.

مسعود شفیعی؛ وکیل کیان تاجبخش اخیرا موفق شد که کل پرونده وی را مطالعه کند. آنچه که مشهود است عدم تناسب بین مستندات پرونده و حکم صادره علیه تاجبخش است، در ضمن اینکه خود پرونده ماهیت آشکارا سیاسی و خودسرانه دارد. جاسوسی آنگونه که بوضوح در قوانین ایران تعریف شده به این معناست که جرم جاسوسی زمانی اتفاق می افتد که اسناد کاملا محرمانه تحویل گرفته شود و به دولت خارجی تحویل داده شود. در حالیکه در پرونده به وجود چنین اسنادی ارجاع داده نشده است.

پرونده ای که اخیرا آقای شفیعی مطالعه کرده دربرگیرنده تصاویری از تظاهرات اخیر است که توسط کیان تاجبخش  ایمیل شده است. این تصاویر اساسا اسناد طبقه بندی شده یا محرمانه دولتی تلقی نمی شوند. کیان تاجبخش به اسناد محرمانه در هیچ مرحله ای به هیچوجه دسترسی نداشته است.

آقای شفیعی بطور دائم از ملاقات با موکل خود محروم شده است. با وجود آنکه وی پس از مطالعه پرونده، ازدادگاه انقلاب شعبه ۵۴ که مسئول رسیدگی به تقاضای تجدید نظر پرونده کیان است، اجازه ملاقات با وی را دریافت کرد تا لایحه دفاعیه را با موکل خود نهایی کند، اما در روز ۲۰ آذرماه، مسئولین زندان اوین به او اجازه ملاقات ندادند و از او اجازه قاضی صلواتی را خواستند که مسئول شعبه ۱۵ دادگاه انقلاب است. در حالیکه قاضی صلواتی بعنوان قاضی مسئول دادگاه بدوی حکم تاجبخش را صادر کرده و در این مرحله از دادرسی فارغ از رسیدگی است.

مسئولین بند الف ۲ زندان اوین که تحت مدیریت سپاه پاسداران است، به مسعود شفیعی اجازه ملاقات ندادند. لایحه دفاعیه  به زودی باید تقدیم دادگاه تجدید نظر شود در حالیکه از نظر اصولی قبل از ارائه لایحه، وکیل باید با موکل ملاقات کند، مطالب رسیده به وکیل براساس تماس های هر از چند گاه تلفنی کیان تاجبخش و یا پیام هایی است که از طریق خانواده در ملاقات ها منتقل شده اند.

بسیاری از موارد آئین دادرسی در این پرونده نقض شده است. از نظر شکلی نگهداری متهم در بازداشت موقت نقض ماده ۱۸۲ و همچنین ماده ۳۷ آئین دادرسی کیفری است. طبق قوانین ایران، کیان تاجبخش باید پس از تحقیقات مقدماتی به قید وثیقه آزاد می شد. در پرونده کیان تاجبخش ذکر شده است که  قاضی صلواتی دستور آزادی به قید وثیقه صادر کرد اما تاجبخش آن را نپذیرفت و خواست که به زندان برود، در حالیکه این مورد کاملا کذب است.

یکی دیگر از موارد نقض قوانین در این پرونده این است که طبق اصل ۱۳۹ قانون اساسی و ماده ۱۸۸ آئین دادرسی کیفری، تا زمانی که اتهامات متهم توسط دادگاه ثابت نشده، نباید از او اسمی برده شود، در حالیکه اتهامات مطرح شده توسط دادستان علیه تاجبخش بطورعمومی قبل از اثبات دادگاه منتشر و دادگاه او مستقیم از تلویزیون پخش شد.

اتهامات وارده علیه کیان تاجبخش، کاملا بی اساس هستند برای اینکه هیچ اقدام مجرمانه ای صورت نگرفته است. طبق ماده ۲ قانون مجازات اسلامی هر اقدامی که بعنوان اقدام مجرمانه تعریف نشده باشد، نمی تواند مبنای اتهامات مجرمانه قرار بگیرد.به گفته آقای شفیعی، اقدامی که تاجبخش بر اساس آن متهم شده شغل او بعنوان مشاور جامعه باز است که این عمل بعنوان یک اقدام مجرمانه تعریف نشده است.

درکیفرخواست صادره علیه کیان تاجبخش، در واقع خدمات وی بعنوان مشاور موسسه جامعه باز، آشوبگرانه تشریح شده است. موسسه جامعه باز یک بنیاد بین المللی است که به کشورهای در حال توسعه  انواعی از کمک های بشردوستانه ارائه می کند. به گفته وکیل کیان تاجبخش، فعالیت های این موسسه در ایران در توافقی با دولت جمهوری اسلامی ایران در قالب یک موافقتنامه ای که در آن انواع فعالیت ها ذکر شده است، صورت گرفته است، و هیچ فعالیتی بدون توافق مقامات جمهوری اسلامی ایران توسط کیان تاجبخش با موسسه جامعه باز انجام نشده است. علاوه بر آن، مشاورت کیان تاجبخش با موسسه جامعه باز در سال ۱۳۸۶؛ قبل از ماجرای انتخابات اخیر به اتمام رسیده بود.

کیفرخواست همچنین برمبنای اشتباهات فاحشی تنظیم شده است که آن را از اعتبار ساقط می کند. از میان آنها می توان برای نمونه به این ادعا اشاره کرد که در کیفرخواست اشاره شده است که متهم در تظاهرات غیر قانونی و در حین ارتکاب جرم بازداشت شده است، در حالی که کیان تاجبخش در منزل خود در ساعت ۹ شب در حضور همسرش بازداشت شد.

کمپین بین المللی حقوق بشرمجددا اعتراض خود را  به قوه قضائیه در مورد پرونده کیان تاجبخش ابراز کرده و خواستار بازبینی پرونده وی است چرا که این پرونده با نقض متعدد قانونی و اتهاماتی با منشا سیاسی تشکیل شده و آن را فاقد اعتبار کرده است. همچنین این کمپین خواستاربازپس گیری همه اتهامات از کیان تاجبخش و بازگرداندن وی به آغوش خانواده و محیط دانشگاهی است.

[Link to Persian article]

Faculty petition for Tajbakhsh’s release (Source: Columbia Spectator)

Over 150 Columbia University students and professors have publicized a letter lobbying for the release of Kian, a current Columbia faculty member:

“…Tajbakhsh, who was supposed to teach at Columbia’s School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, was arrested this summer in Iran during the aftermath of the elections. He has also faced numerous charges of spying and being a threat to the national government.

“We hope to raise awareness about Kian’s case, and show our support for him as a member of our academic community and as a renowned scholar who has been falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned,” said a graduate student involved in the campaign who was granted anonymity for security reasons. “The charges are nonsense. Kian is a dedicated scholar, and someone who cares deeply about Iran. He has worked throughout his career to foster understanding between Iran and the rest of the world. I was looking forward to seeing him continue that work at Columbia this year, and it is terribly sad and frightening to know that he is in prison right now, instead of in a classroom here.”

“We, the undersigned faculty of Columbia University, call for the immediate and unconditional release of our colleague Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh,” the letter begins. It emphasizes his academic achievements and status as “an internationally recognized scholar who has taught at both American and Iranian universities.”

“Throughout his career, he has dedicated himself to fostering better understanding between the United States and Iran,” it states…

[Gary] Sick, a senior research scholar at the Middle East Institute of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, called the charges against Tajbakhsh “absurd … the best evidence of the underlying paranoia in the Iranian revolution government. They are persuaded that America is part of the revolution and trying to overthrow their government. They are looking for anybody that has associated with foreign government. … Some go to jail, others go to death,” he said.

“I have never been a CIA agent,” Sick added, stating that the accusation was invented by “an Iranian journalist or publisher.” He called it “disappointing” that there was “no effort to verify that it is true,” considering that “this is supposed to be a court case.”

“They can give you 15 years of jail for a rumor,” Sick said…”

[Link to article]

Interview: Imprisoned Iranian-American’s Mother Describes His Postelection Plight (Source: RFE/RL)

By , December 14, 2009 4:17 pm

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari has published an interview with Kian’s mother, which also aired in Persian on Radio Farda. BBC Persian and Voice of America have broadcast similar interviews in recent days with both Kian’s mother and his lawyer, Masoud Safie:

“Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh was arrested and put on trial in the course of the crackdown that followed mass protests over the results of Iran’s June presidential election…

RFE/RL: When was the last time you were able to visit your son, Kian Tajbakhsh, in prison?

Farideh Gerami: I visited my son at Evin prison on Thursday [December 10], along with his wife and daughter Hasti, who is about two [years] old.

RFE/RL: How is your son doing in prison and what conditions is he dealing with? He was among those arrested shortly after the disputed June 12 vote.

Gerami: [Kian Tajbaksh] was arrested three [weeks] after the election; it’s been five months that he’s being held in solitary confinement at Evin prison.

Spending five months in solitary confinement is extremely difficult. Psychologically he is strong because he is innocent and he hasn’t done anything wrong and he’s confident that his situation will be [resolved]; his case is transparent.

But physically he’s lost weight, and as a mother I can see that he’s [aged]. I feel he’s under pressure.

Of course, in order to comfort us, he always tells us that he’s doing fine, that we shouldn’t worry. But I’m really worried about him. You can imagine what happens when you hold anyone in solitary confinement for five months.

RFE/RL: What is your reaction to the 15-year prison sentence your son received after being charged with “soft overthrow” and similar charges. It’s one of the heaviest prison sentences issued for those arrested in the postelection crackdown.

Gerami: First of all, I have to say that when I returned to Iran two months ago [from New York] it was the birthday of my granddaughter, who is Kian’s only child. We all thought — we strongly believed — that my son would be released for the birthday of his daughter. Not only wasn’t he released, but the week after they issued the 15-year prison sentence not only us, I mean the family, but also [Kian] himself, we’re all astonished, we’re shocked, we don’t understand why such a sentence has been handed down.

He’s a scholar, he didn’t participate and wasn’t involved in the postelection events. He was under the watch of the Intelligence Ministry; all his actions were being monitored by the Intelligence Ministry. I would call him from New York and tell him not to go out, don’t take part in the unrest. He would tell me: “Mother, be sure, we’re fine, there isn’t any problem. My case is transparent and I’m being monitored.’

All the officials knew that he didn’t leave his house [during the postelection unrest]. Even if he had to go out to visit some friends, he would make sure to change his route to avoid [antigovernment] demonstrations. Therefore, when the sentence was issued we were all astonished; he was stunned. When [the authorities] informed him about the 15-year prison sentence, he was about to go crazy. He couldn’t believe something like this would happen.

We’re very, very concerned and I know for sure that my son is innocent; he knows he’s innocent, he hasn’t done anything [wrong]. He and his family were supposed to come to New York in early September and he was supposed to work at Columbia University, from which he graduated, and now we’re unfortunately stuck in this issue.

Political Case

RFE/RL: What do you think is the reason behind this heavy sentence? Kian Tajbakhsh was also jailed in [2007]. Why do you think he has faced so much pressure?

Gerami: This is my opinion, and it might not be correct, but I think it’s a political decision because my son is Iranian-American. He has dual nationality and this is a political [case].

RFE/RL: What do you think the United States can do in his case, the U.S. and the international community?

Gerami: So far, human rights groups in the U.S. and elsewhere — his friends and colleagues at Columbia University — have done what they could. They have sent letters to the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei]. They’ve sent letters to government officials. I myself have written to [Iranian President ] Mahmud Ahmadinejad and I was told that he received the letter.

[S]ome things have happened and I really hope that this issue will be resolved soon. My son’s case is now being reviewed by an appeals court. I really hope that the appeals court comes to the conclusion that the charges against him are baseless and he will be acquitted and allowed to come home as soon as possible.

I would just like to add that his daughter misses her father very much and is very impatient. We’re under a lot of pressure, a lot.”

[Link to article]
[Article in Persian]

U.S. President Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech (Source: Associated Press); Human Rights Day 2009: the Good, the Bad, and the Hopeful (Source: PEN Association); Iran: Election Contested, Repression Compounded (Amnesty International)

By , December 11, 2009 7:29 am

In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway, U.S. President Barack Obama highlighted the peaceful struggles of millions of Burmese, Zimbabweans and Iranians while also acknowledging the following in this much-repeated introduction:

“…Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize — Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela — my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women — some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honor than I…

So even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal. We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear to these movements that hope and history are on their side.”

[Full speech]

Also on December 10th – International Human Rights Day – the PEN Association of thousands of writers posted a report that states:

“Most of us tend to measure a year’s passage by our birthdays, but in the human rights world, each year is marked and measured by December 10: International Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the birth of the Declaration of Human Rights. Each December 10 has meaning, of course, but 2009 is particularly poignant.

We’ve witnessed the murders of more writers, journalists, and human rights defenders than we’d ever want to count this year, including Natalia Estemirova, the courageous Chechen activist who was abducted outside her home in Grozny and murdered on July 15.

We’ve also witnessed the mass arrests of writers and scholars in places like Iran, which responded to popular protests over this year’s election results by handing out outrageous sentences to people like Kian Tajbakhsh, who is now serving 15 years in jail.

And we’ve witnessed countries blatantly defying their own laws, such as in China’s arrest and detention of our own PEN colleague, Liu Xiaobo, who is now spending his second Human Rights Day in silence…

And so here at PEN in New York, we are commemorating Human Rights Day by paying tribute to all these brave men and women, in China and all over the world, who are using their pens, using their voices, to stand up for human rights, regardless of the consequences. We stand with them, we stand behind them, and we will continue to fight for them until all our pens, our voices, are free…”

[Full report]

Meanwhile, Amnesty International‘s newly issued report on Iran: Elections Contested, Repression Compounded features Kian’s case:

“…[Kian Tajbakhsh] appears to have been particularly harshly treated on account of his dual nationality and the nature of his academic work.”

[Press release] [Full report]

Time to speak out on Iran (Source: Philadelphia Inquirer)

An article published in the Philadelphia Inquirer mentions Kian’s case:

“…Iran’s opposition “green” movement – which started as a protest against election fraud – has grown into a much broader civil rights movement. Monday’s demonstrations – documented on YouTube despite the regime’s media ban – showed that Iranians both young and old are increasingly inflamed by the government’s brutality toward its own people.

So why is President Obama so quiet about Iran’s human rights abuses?

Yes, U.S. officials have raised the case of three American hikers imprisoned after straying across the border in Iraqi Kurdistan. And they have protested the jailing of Iranian American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh. But the White House has been noticeably reluctant to raise wider human rights concerns with Tehran.

The administration seems to fear that criticism of Tehran’s human rights violations would impede talks on curbing Iran’s nuclear program. But those talks have stalled since Iran backed off a promising compromise proposal. The impasse is linked to Iran’s repression of human rights.

Iran is going through an internal power struggle that is far from over and has paralyzed its domestic politics. This will make it extremely difficult to do a deal with Tehran in the near term.

The heart of the problem: The hard-line core of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard military force wants to consolidate power and crush any political opposition. The Revolutionary Guards, who are directing the crackdown in the country, resisted a compromise on the Iranian nuclear program (even though their man, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, seemed to endorse it).

“They want to put the country on a war footing,” said Hadi Ghaemi, coordinator of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, “because they see this as the easiest way for them to consolidate power inside Iran.” So, says Ghaemi, there is no point in our keeping mum on Iran’s crackdown on its growing civil rights movement: “The Obama administration has to recognize that the Iranian protest movement is an undeniable reality that is not going way.”

Ghaemi and other Iran experts stress that Obama should take an approach different from the Bush administration’s. The latter linked support for the Iranian opposition to calls for “regime change” and provided funds for regime opponents. This gave Tehran a handy excuse to brand all Iranian civil-society groups as spies.

Rather than offer material support, says Ghaemi, Obama should be a moral voice. He should hold Iran to account at the United Nations for international conventions it has signed calling for freedom of expression and assembly…”

[Full Article]

The spirit of protest lives on in Iran (Source: Guardian)

By , December 10, 2009 11:01 am
An article in The Guardian newspaper highlights the injustice of Kian’s case:
“This morning a fresh round of opposition demonstrations erupted across Iran and there have been widespread clashes reported between protesters and various state security forces, the police and the paramilitary Basij militia. The troubles are seemingly focused in the main on Tehran’s universities, as well as those in the provincial cities of Isfahan, Kermanshah, Shiraz, Mashhad, Tabriz and Karaj. Troubles have also been reported elsewhere in Tehran. The protests are testimony both to the extent of grievances still widely held among a large section of the Iranian population and to the bravery of the Iranian people even in the face of state violence and repression…

Iran once enjoyed what was, for the region, a surprisingly open and sophisticated political pluralism and debate. There was even tolerance of criticism – albeit neither of the system of Islamic government à la Khomeini nor of the supreme leader.

However, during the last few months, rights have been severely curtailed. The granting of clemency by supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei to 793 prisoners only highlights the number incarcerated by the regime. Trials of many opposition figures have violated Iranian constitutional and legal norms, and several, including the Iranian-American academic Kian Tajbakhsh, have been sentenced to long imprisonment on bogus espionage charges. Security forces continue to arrest and harass critical voices and have even targeted the Mourning Mothers, a group of women, including the mother of Neda Agha-Soltan, whose children were killed during post-election protests. Amnesty International reports plans to establish a “cyber police” unit to track down those “spreading lies” and “insults” that will further attack freedom of expression

It seems likely that state forces will successfully quash today’s demonstrations. However the recurrence of protests and the regime’s use of violence and oppression to suppress the uprisings highlights the ongoing political crisis in Iran and the fundamental lack of legitimacy of the ruling elite. The intolerance of criticism by the Iranian state will surely only further radicalise protesters…”

Statement by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on missing and detained Americans in Iran (Source: U.S. State Department)

By , December 6, 2009 5:02 pm

In a statement marking the 1,000th day since the disappearance of American citizen Robert Levinson in Iran, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on the Government of Iran to resolve Kian’s case as well:

“Mr. Levinson’s case remains a priority for the United States, as does resolving the cases of other American citizens who are unjustly detained in Iran: Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, Kian Tajbakhsh, and Reza Taghavi.”

[Full statement]

Mother of Iranian-American scholar urges release (Source: Associated Press)

By , December 3, 2009 11:03 am

Kian’s mother pleads for her son’s release:

“WASHINGTON – The mother of an Iranian-American scholar facing espionage charges in Tehran is urging the Iranian government to release her son.

Speaking by phone from Tehran, Farideh Gueramy (FAH’-rih-day GUHR’-ah-mee) said Tuesday that the government has not clarified the legal grounds on which her son, Kian Tajbakhsh (KEE’-ahn TAZH’-bahdzh), has been charged. She says he is innocent.

“The problem is that we really don’t have any clear information,” Gueramy said.

Gueramy said that the family recently hired prominent Iranian lawyer, Masoud Shafie, to represent Tajbakhsh. Family members, including Tajbakhsh’s wife and two-year-old daughter, have been able to visit him about once a week in prison.

Tajbakhsh has already been sentenced to 15 years in prison on spying charges. But new espionage charges were brought this month raising the possibility of a harsher penalty.

Tajbakhsh was writing a book when he was arrested five months ago amid security forces’ crackdown following June’s disputed presidential election. He was among more than 100 people — most of them opposition activists and protesters — brought before a court in a mass trial criticized by the opposition and rights groups as ashow trial.

Last week, Tajbakhsh was brought before another branch of the Revolutionary Court that the elite Revolutionary Guard military corps has used to pursue dissidents, and he was charged with additional counts of espionage, the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said in a statement.

His family denies that he was involved in the postelection protests.

“He hasn’t done anything. He was at his home writing books,” Gueramy said. “I hope they realize that and let him go home to his two-year-old baby.”

[Link to article]

EU Presidency Statement on the case of Kian Tajbakhsh in Iran (Source: European Union)

By , December 2, 2009 10:23 am
The Presidency of the European Union has issued a statement about Kian’s case and the human rights situation in Iran:

“In a declaration of 23 October the European Union expressed concern at the sentencing of American-Iranian scholar Kian Tajbakhsh to 12-15 years in prison. Recent reports that Dr Tajbakhsh now faces additional charges of espionage are deeply worrying. Dr Tajbakhsh was arrested in connection with the popular demonstrations after the Presidential election on 12 June and has been detained in Iran without access to an independent lawyer since 9 July.

The Presidency of the European Union remains deeply concerned by the overall human rights situation in Iran, including the large number of cases similar to that of Dr Tajbakhsh which fall short of the international human rights standards regarding fair trial that Iran has committed itself to implement and which in many cases also violate Iranian constitutional and legal provisions. The Presidency reiterates the call from the European Union to the Iranian authorities to release journalists and individuals detained for political offences.

The Presidency urges the Islamic Republic of Iran to comply with all international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Iran – not least with relevant articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights regarding the right to a fair trial, which is also enshrined in the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

[Link to statement]

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