Kian temporarily freed for Persian New Year (Nowruz) celebrations!

By , March 14, 2010 6:59 pm

At around 9pm Tehran time on Saturday, March 13, Iranian officials freed Kian from the Evin prison complex and permitted him to go home for a 15-day leave to celebrate the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, with his family.

Kian would like to take this opportunity to extend his heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all his supporters and warm greetings to his many relatives and friends around the world. He asks members of the media to kindly respect his privacy as he enjoys a precious reunion with his loving family and some long-awaited rest and respite from this 8-month-long ordeal.

If you wish to send Nowruz greetings to Kian, please click here.

Links to related reports:
Associated Press -  Iran Press TV -  France24Chronicle of Higher EducationNew York TimesAssociated Press (March 16th)

Kian Tajbakhsh: Still Captive in Iran (Source: Columbia News)

By , March 12, 2010 10:46 am

Kian’s colleagues at Columbia University reported on their recent efforts urging his release:

“Columbia alumnus Kian Tajbakhsh was supposed to join the faculty of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation last fall. Instead, the Iranian-born scholar was arrested in July and jailed at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, accused of supporting the uprising that followed the country’s disputed elections last June and of spying for the United States.

Now, many of those in the Columbia community who expected to welcome Tajbakhsh as a colleague and teacher are working to win his freedom.

Last month, some 20 members of the Columbia faculty—including the deans of the School of General Studies , the Graduate School of Journalism and the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA)—signed a letter addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seeking her assistance in securing Tajbakhsh’s release.“There’s nothing political about his work,” says Professor Ken Prewitt , vice president for Global Centers and Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs. “He’s being persecuted, as far as we can tell, for being in Iran at the wrong time. This is a violation of the principles of freedom of mobility for scholars.”

“The Iranian government has established a pattern of harassment of scholars,” the letter stated. The arrest “is a destructive and pernicious act that does not address the problems confronting the Islamic Republic of Iran, now or in the future.”

Secretary Clinton wrote back Feb. 1, saying that “the espionage charges against him are groundless” and that the State Department “is using every available diplomatic tool to achieve Dr. Tajbakhsh’s release.”…

Columbia professors have posted video appeals on FreeKian09.org. In one, Mark Wigley , dean of the architecture school, describes Tajbakhsh as “one of the leading experts in the evolution of the city and the way that leaders can best provide services to local populations.” Wigley emphasizes the architectural leadership of Iran and notes that Tajbakhsh was to be the first full-time Iranian scholar at the school.

“It’s incredibly important for our faculty, our professors, our colleagues, our students to learn from Iran,” he says. “If Kian was going to do any of the things he’s been accused of doing, he certainly would not have accepted this full-time academic position here in New York City.”

Ira Katznelson , a professor of political science and history at Columbia, says he first met Kian in the late 1980s, and sponsored his dissertation. Through “long conversations, I discovered what so many of us know: that Kian is a person of luminous intelligence, moral commitment and fierce desire to understand the world and make it better.” …

[Link to full article]

Free Expression Groups Call on Iran to Open Door to UN Rights Experts (Source: PEN)

By , March 12, 2010 10:36 am

A coalition of international nongovernmental organizations led by the Committee to Protect Journalists are highlighting the urgency of Kian’s case and that of other writers, journalists and publishers, noting that some 47 journalists are currently in prison in Iran – more than any other country on earth has imprisoned at any one time since 1996:

“Geneva—Organizations supporting journalists, writers and publishers in Iran have called on Tehran officials to open the door to the United Nations’ special rapporteurs on human rights, including its expert on freedom of expression, Frank la Rue.

Resisting calls here for an international investigation into post-election abuses of human rights in Iran, Tehran’s envoy Mohammad Javad Larijani told both diplomats and the media on Monday that there was a “standing invitation” for the UN’s special rapporteurs to visit Iran and investigate claims of rights abuse—only to reverse his position today.

The rapporteurs should be allowed to visit the country at the earliest opportunity, said representatives of the “Our Society Will Be a Free Society” campaign, in Geneva to observe the UN Human Rights Council’s review of Iran’s record this week…

“Mr la Rue and the other UN rapporteurs should not be prevented by the Iranian government from making their own independent assessment of the situation,” said Alexis Krikorian of the International Publishers Association. “The UN rapporteurs should go to Iran as soon as possible. Certainly we should hear their reports before the UN even starts to consider Iran’s bid to become a member of the Human Rights Council this May.”

Addressing the hearing before the 47-nation Council’s quadrennial Universal Periodic Review (UPR) procedure, Larijani said Iran was in “full compliance with the relevant international commitments it has taken on in a genuine and long-term approach to safeguard human rights.”

UN human rights experts have already voiced concerns about mass arrests and the abuse of opposition supporters, clerics, journalists, students and others, said Rohan Jayasekera of Index on Censorship, “But independent investigation on the ground is crucial.”

The Council’s working group report on Iran, which included concerns raised by diplomats and human rights groups, was adopted at noon in Geneva on Wednesday, following Iran’s grilling by other nations at the UN on Monday.

“The UN should have been able to mark Iranian New Year this year by announcing a programme of visits to Iran by its human rights rapporteurs,” said Jayasekera. “Instead today Iran repudiated its international obligations on human rights and further underlined its unsuitability for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.”

Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly continue to be undermined by the Iranian regime and human rights defenders face an increasingly precarious situation, said six of the rapporteurs in a statement last year.

The rapporteurs questioned the legal basis for the arrests of journalists, human rights defenders, opposition supporters and demonstrators, saying it was unclear and gave rise to fears of “arbitrary detentions of individuals legitimately exercising their right to freedom of expression, opinion and assembly.”

The statement was issued by: Manuela Carmena Castrillo, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention; Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Frank la Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Santiago Corcuera, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the working group on enforced and involuntary disappearances.

The list of prisoners of conscience currently held in Iranian prisons includes some of Iran’s most distinguished journalists, some of the country’s leading bloggers, and Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar sentenced in August 2009…following a mass trial of 140 activists, intellectuals, and writers accused of fomenting a “velvet revolution.”

Among the journalists are Emadeddin Baghi, also a well known author and human rights defender; Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, an award-winning editor and press freedom advocate; and Shiva Nazar Ahari, a human rights journalist who has been jailed twice in the last eight months. The Committee to Protect Journalists this month announced that the 47 journalists now in prison in Iran are more than any other country on earth has imprisoned at any one time since 1996.”

[Link to full article]

USG Statement on U.S. Citizens Unjustly Detained in Iran (Source: U.S. State Department)

By , March 12, 2010 10:26 am

On the occasion of the third anniversary of the disappearance of Robert Levinson in Iran, the State Department has called on Iran to release all unjustly detained US citizens, including Kian:

“… The United States also calls on Iran to resolve the cases of the five American citizens who are unjustly detained in Iran: Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, Kian Tajbakhsh, and Reza Taghavi…”

[Full statement]

Politics of Resistance Conference (Source: New School for Social Research)

By , March 12, 2010 10:24 am

The New School for Social Research in New York City, where Kian served as a professor for many years, organized a conference on February 12 dedicated to Kian, entitled “Iran: Politics of Resistance.” The full conference proceedings are now available online here.

Numerous speakers were featured, for example including Kian’s former colleague Ramin Jahanbegloo and Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

[Link to full conference]

New prison sentences: Tajbakhsh five years, Safaei Farahani six years, and Nabavi five years (Source: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran)

By , March 12, 2010 10:19 am

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has published an article summarizing recent appeal sentences of political prisoners passed down by Iran’s General and Revolutionary Courts, including Kian’s:

“An appeals court has reduced Iranian American researcher Kian Tajbakhsh’s sentence to five years. Behzad Nabavi’s sentence has also been reduced to five years. Earlier there was news about the six year prison sentence of Mohsen Safaee Farahani, 61. General and Revolutionary Courts have announced the verdicts of 35 individuals arrested after the elections. An appeals court has reviewed and finalized the rulings, sending the cases to the “Implementation Unit” of the Courts.

“Congregation and mutiny against national security,” “propagation against the regime,” “attacking police officers,” “vandalism,” and “arsen” are some of the charges for these individuals. Behzad Nabavi is a senior member of the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization, and Mohsen Safaee Farahani, is a member of the central council of Islamic Participation Front and a former Member of the Parliament. Safaee Farahani and Nabavi were arrested after the elections following Iranian security and military authorities’ naming the post-elections protests “a velvet revolution.” Subsequently, those arrested after the elections, among them several prominent reformist figures, were taken to televised show trials in which some of them such as Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former Iranian Vice President, confessed to activities and criticized the reformist leaders. The Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, confirmed the validity of television confessions of the prisoners at a post-elections Friday Prayers’ sermon, criticizing the words of those who opposed use of such methods as “nonsense.”

In Addition to Mohsen Safaee Farahani, more than ten other members of the Participation Front are in prison now. Mohsen Mirdamadi, Abdollah Ramezan Zadeh, Azar Mansouri, Mostafa Tajzadeh, Mohsen Aminzadeh, Shabeddin Tabatabaee, Davood Soleimani, Hossein Nourani Nejad, Mehdi Mahmoudian, and Saeed Nourmohammadi are some of the party’s imprisoned members. Shahab Tabatabaee, one of the members, has been sentenced to five years in prison by Branch 15 of Revolutionary Courts. Abdollah Ramezan Zadeh has also received a six year imprisonment sentence on charges of “acting against national security.”

Iranian American researcher, Kian Tajbakhsh, who at first received a 15 year prison term, received a five year sentence from an Appeals Court. Charges against him are “actions against national security,” “espionage and contacts with foreign elements against the regime,” “accepting a consulting assignment from Soros Foundation in Iran toward a soft overthrow of Islamic Republic of Iran,” [never since 2007 -editors] “propagation activities against the regime,” “creating the illusion of fraud and falsification in elections results,” “compromising public trust toward the regime and official authorities of the country,” and “disruption in public order and creation of fear in society.”

[Link to article]

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