Category: Statements of support

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 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]

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

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]

Groups join forces, urge Iran to free journalists (Source: Committee to Protect Journalists)

By , February 12, 2010 10:36 am

An international coalition of prominent human rights organizations have joined together in an effort to raise awareness about and help secure the releases of journalists and writers imprisoned in Iran, including Kian:

“February 11, 2010, New York—A coalition of leading international journalists’, writers’, and publishers’ organizations today launched a campaign to press the government of Iran to release their colleagues imprisoned in the wake of last year’s disputed presidential election CPJ, PEN, Reporters Sans Frontières, Index on Censorship, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and the International Publishers Association have joined forces for the campaign out of what the groups have called “a sense of shared, urgent concern for the welfare of journalists, writers, and bloggers and a profound alarm over the situation for free expression in Iran.”

The “Our Society Will Be a Free Society” campaign, named for a pledge the Ayatollah Khomenei made during the 1979 Iranian revolution to protect freedom of expression and the press, kicks off on the 31st anniversary of the revolution and four days before the UN Human Rights Council convenes in Geneva to review Iran’s human rights record. In an open letter released today, the coalition called on Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to honor the original spirit of the Iranian revolution and order the release of at least 60 writers, journalists, and bloggers currently in prison in Iran in apparent violation of their right to freedom of expression…

The list of writers, journalists, and bloggers currently in prison in Iran includes some of Iran’s most distinguished journalists, some of the country’s leading bloggers, and Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar and social planner who was sentenced in August 2009 to 15 years in prison 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.

“Despite mass arrests, forced confessions, harassment and intimidation, journalists are still working,” said Committee to Protect Journalists Chairman Paul Steiger. “We must send these courageous men and women, and the nearly 50 journalists currently behind bars, a clear message of support. Iran is now the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. President Ahmadinejad should be ashamed of this fact and release our colleagues immediately.”

The coalition is not only addressing the government of Iran, but also urging world leaders to apply pressure on Iran to release all those who are in prison simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

“Next week, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations meets to examine Iran’s human rights record,” said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN. “In its own submission to the Council, the government of Iran points out that its constitution protects basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, the freedom to assembly peacefully, and freedom from arbitrary arrests”

“And yet,” Fraser continued, “Despite these protections, the Human Rights council has before it more than 200 reports documenting the arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, and torture, often for the purposes of extracting false confessions, of intellectuals, students, artists, human rights defenders, journalists, and others after the disputed presidential elections last year. We implore the members of the Council to question Iran carefully on its human rights performance, and especially on the fate of at least 60 writers, journalists, and bloggers currently in prison in that country.”

“Arresting journalists and writers is wrong and counterproductive at the same time,” [journalist and former Evin prison detainee] Maziar Bahari said today. “It is illegal even according to Iranian laws, and the Iranian government is actually undermining its own authority by arresting journalists. In Iran, journalists have always reflected people’s frustration with the government. By denying people of a peaceful way to vent their anger the government of Iran is forcing people to act out their anger on the streets,” he concluded.

The “Our Society Will Be A Free Society” campaign is a joint initiative of The Committee to Protect Journalists, International PEN and PEN American Center and English PEN, Reporters Sans Frontières, Index on Censorship, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and the International Publishers Association. The campaign will run through March 20, 2010, the Iranian New Year, with events aimed at building pressure for the release of writers and journalists in prison in Iran continuing in North America and Europe through the spring.”

[Link to statement]

Faculty seek Hillary Clinton’s support in prisoner’s release (Source: Columbia Spectator)

By , January 13, 2010 3:21 pm

A group of Columbia University faculty members called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to do everything possible to obtain Kian’s release:

“…Tajbakhsh, who earned his Ph.D. from Columbia, was supposed to teach at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation this year, but he was arrested last summer in Iran during the aftermath of the elections. He faces multiple charges of spying and being a threat to the national government…

…this Monday, Jan. 11, a group of faculty sent a letter to Clinton… The letter begins, “As members of the faculty at Columbia University, we wish to express our deep concerns for the well-being of Kian Tajbakhsh.” …
The letter also denounces Iran’s “pattern of harassment of scholars,” including Mohammad Maleki, the former chancellor of Tehran University. “Attacking and imprisoning scholars is a destructive and pernicious act that does not address the problems confronting the Islamic Republic of Iran, now or in the future,” it states.

“Everybody knows that the regime is using coercive repression on its critics inside of the country,” [Columbia political science professor and department chair Andrew] Nathan said. “This person [Tajbakhsh] is a scholar, who is coming to this university as a scholar and a teacher. He is not a politician. He hasn’t used violence. He is not a terrorist. He is using academic freedom, which should be protected.“

[Full Article]

Interview: Embassy Hostage-Turned-U.S. Envoy Compares ’79 To Iran Today (Source: RFE/RL)

By , January 6, 2010 7:04 am

Senior State Department official John Limbert commented in an interview on the cases of Americans detained in Iran including Kian:

RFE/RL: Three U.S. hikers are [currently] detained in Iran. An Iranian-American scholar, Kian Tajbaksh, has been sentenced to a heavy prison term over the postelection unrest. And the family of a former FBI agent, Robert Levinson, who disappeared during a trip to Iran, believe that he’s still held there. What is the U.S. doing for these people? And how hopeful are you that they could be released in the near future?

Limbert: We are engaged in a lot of efforts, but for reasons that are obvious to you, I can’t give you details.

But we are in constant contact with countries that can influence this and can help. We believe that these are considered humanitarian issues and not political ones. We were hoping that some of them would be released for Christmas and New Year, but it didn’t happen.

We’re hoping that the Islamic Republic will release them in a humanitarian gesture and not treat [people] who merely exercised their rights in this manner.”

[Link to full article]

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

By , December 16, 2009 9:58 am

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]

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]

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]

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]

Friends of jailed Iranian urge Irish Government to raise issue (Source: Irish Times)

By , November 29, 2009 6:26 am

The Irish Times has published a piece on appeals by Kian’s friends in Ireland – Chandana Mathur and Dermot Dix – to the Irish Government to help free him:

“IRELAND-BASED friends of an Iranian-American academic who faces fresh charges of spying on top of a 15-year sentence he received last month have appealed to the Irish Government to raise the issue with Tehran.

Kian Tajbakhsh (47) was arrested during the crackdown that followed Iran’s disputed presidential election in June. He was among more than 100 people tried in connection with protests sparked by the controversial ballot, which returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

His family has denied that Mr Tajbakhsh was involved in the demonstrations.

The US-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said that earlier this week, Mr Tajbakhsh was told of the new charges when he was brought before a special court believed to have been set up by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to prosecute opposition figures…

The concerns of his family and friends were heightened by the case of a Kurdish activist who had been serving a 10-year sentence but was executed earlier this month after a prosecutor revisited the case and demanded a harsher penalty.

“It is our fear that something similar might happen to Kian,” said Chandana Mathur, an anthropologist at NUI Maynooth and friend of Mr Tajbakhsh. “The story just gets uglier and uglier by the day. It is breathtaking and very frightening.”

Ms Mathur’s husband, Dermot Dix, who is headmaster of Headfort School in Kells, Co Meath, called on the Irish Government to intervene. “I would like to urge the Irish Government to take a stand for human rights in Iran and speak out in defence of an innocent man,” he said.

“Ireland is justly proud of its history of neutrality; surely this is a chance to use our neutral status to reach out to the Iranian regime in order to prevent a gross injustice?

“The EU is Iran’s biggest trading partner and Ireland also has the opportunity in the context of EU membership to reach out to Iran to demand justice.”

[Full article]

U.S. White House statement on new charges against Kian Tajbakhsh (Source: The White House)

By , November 27, 2009 5:18 pm

The United States White House has issued a second statement on Kian’s case via its Press Secretary:

“The United States is deeply concerned about reports of additional charges facing Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar who has been detained in Iran without access to an independent lawyer since July 9, 2009. The charges against Mr. Tajbakhsh are baseless, and his original sentence on October 20 was an outrage. The Iranian government cannot earn the respect of the international community when it violates universal rights, and continues to imprison innocent people. We call on the Islamic Republic of Iran to release Mr. Tajbakhsh, and to respect the human rights of those within its borders.”

New Charges of Espionage Filed Against Iranian-American Sociologist (Source: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran)

By , November 26, 2009 5:44 am

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has expressed serious concerns about new charges introduced by Revolutionary Guards commanders in the prosecution of Kian Tajbakhsh:

“It appears the Revolutionary Guards are seeking to justify their severe repression since the June elections by ratcheting up baseless espionage charges against Tajbakhsh in order to demonstrate foreign involvement and make him a scapegoat,” said Aaron Rhodes, a Campaign spokesperson.

Earlier this week, Tajbakhsh was brought in front of the Third Branch of the Security Court, which is a new court created and controlled apparently by the Revolutionary Guards to prosecute dissidents. He was charged with new allegations of spying based on emails he wrote to Middle East specialists on the Gulf 2000 list, which includes hundreds of experts, diplomats, and journalists. According to information received by the Campaign, high ranking Revolutionary Guards commanders initiated the new charges against Tajbakhsh. He is currently held in solitary confinement in Evin prison and denied release on bail.

Tajbakhsh has been already sentenced to 15 years in prison by a lower court, which charged him with multiple counts, including “acting against national security, by membership in the internet network related to Gary Sick, a CIA agent, and other foreign elements with the purpose of urging people to riot in presidential elections; spying and connections with foreign elements against the sacred system of the Islamic Republic; accepting a consultancy position with the Soros Foundation aimed at the soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran; propaganda activities against the sacred system of the Islamic Republic by participation in illegal assemblies and causing doubt and giving impression of fraud and cheating in election results; and causing lack of public trust towards the official national organs and the ruling system by instigating rioting, mayhem, fear and terror within the society.” No evidence was presented in Tajbakhsh’s trial to support these grave charges.

“If an innocent man’s freedom and well-being were not at stake, the espionage charges based on participation in Gulf 2000 would be nothing more than ludicrous attempts to smear a noted scholar who has assiduously steered clear of political entanglements,” Rhodes said.

The Campaign fears for the health and safety of Tajbakhsh in view of recent judicial proceedings in dissidents’ cases that have contravened Iranian law.

On 11 November, Ehsan Fattahian, a Kurdish activist, was executed even though a lower court had sentenced him to 10 years in prison. The appeals court added the charge of Moharebeh, or “enmity towards God,” and issued the death sentence for Fattahian. Iranian law explicitly forbids appeals courts from increasing a lower court’s sentence. New charges against Tajbakhsh signal that a similar extrajudicial process maybe underway.

Tajbakhsh has been denied access to an independent lawyer and the authorities have restricted his legal representation to a court appointed lawyer, Houshang Azhari.

The Campaign called on the Iranian judiciary to immediately release Tajbakhsh and all other dissidents and activists who have been unfairly persecuted and prosecuted. The Campaign also expressed serious concerns that the Revolutionary Guards appear to be taking over judicial organs and manipulating them to permit extrajudicial detentions and sentences.”

[Link to report]


اتهامات جدید جاسوسی علیه کیان تاجبخش؛ جامعه شناس ایرانی – امریکایی

5 آذر ماه 1388- کمپین بین المللی حقوق بشر در ایران در باره اتهامات جدیدی که فرماندهان سپاه پاسدارن علیه کیان تاجبخش؛ جامعه شناس ایرانی – امریکایی وارد کرده اند، ابراز نگرانی جدی کرد.

ارون رودز سخنکوی کمپین در باره اتهامات جدید علیه تاحبخش گفت:” بنظر می رسد که سپاه پاسداران دنبال راهی است که سرکوب شدیدی را که از خرداد ماه شروع کرده با به راه انداختن اتهامات بی اساس جاسوسی علیه تاحبخش توجیه کند تا به این ترتیب مداخله خارجی ها را به نمایش بگذارد و تاجبخش را سپر کند.”

اوایل این هفته، تابحبخش به شعبه سه بازپرسی امنیت برده شد که یک دادگاه جدیدی است و ظاهرا سپاه پاسداران از آن برای محاکمه افراد دگراندیش استفاده می کند. تاجبخش با اتهامات جدید جاسوسی بر اساس ایمیل هایی که او به متخصصین خاورمیانه در ایمیل لیست گلف 2000 می فرستاده، روبرو شده است که صدها متخصص و روزنامه نگار از اقصی نقاط جهان در این ایمیل لیست هستند. بر اساس اطلاعات رسیده به کمپین بین المللی حقوق بشر در ایران، فرماندهان عالی رتبه سپاه پاسداران این اتهامات جدید را علیه تاجبخش به جریان انداخته اند. تاجبخش در حال حاضر در سلول انفرادی در زندان اوین است و از آزادی او به قید وثیقه خودداری می شود.

کیان تاجبخش توسط دادگاه بدوی به اتهامات متعددی به 15 سال زندان محکوم شده است. این اتهامات عبارتند از “اقدام علیه امنیت ملی با عضویت در شبکه اینترنتی مرتبط به گری سیک؛ عامل سیا، و سایر عوامل خارجی با هدف تحریک مردم به شورش در انتخابات، جاسوسی و ارتباط با عوامل خارجی علیه نظام مقدس جمهوری اسلامی ایران، پذیرش پست مشاوره در بنیاد سورس با هدف به راه انداختن انقلاب مخملین برای براندازی جمهوری اسلامی ایران، فعالیت های تبلیغی علیه نظام مقدس جمهوری اسلامی ایران با شرکت در تجمعات غیر قانونی و عامل ایجاد شک و شبهه و تصور تقلب در انتخابات، و باعث از بین رفتن اعتماد عمومی نسبت به نهادهای رسمی ملی و نظام حاکم با به راه انداخت شورش، جار و جنجال و ترس و وحشت در جامعه.” در دادگاه هیچ مستندی که این اتهامات را ثابت کند ارائه نشده است.

ارون رودز در مورد این اتهامات گفت :”اگر سلامتی و آزادی یک انسان بی گناه در معرض خطر نبود، اتهام جاسوسی بر اساس مشارکت در بحث ایمیل گلف 2000 چیزی بیش از تلاش های مضحک برای تخریب یک متفکری نیست که از فعالیت سیاسی پرهیز کرده است.”

کمپین بین المللی حقوق بشر در ایران بخاطر دادرسی های اخیر در پرونده دگراندیشان که قانون کشور را در آنها نقض می کنند، نگران سلامتی و امنیت جانی تاجبخش است.

در روز 20 آبان ماه احسان فتاحی؛ فعال کرد علیرغم اینکه دادگاه بدوی او را به 10 سال زندان محکوم کرده بود، به دار آویخته شد. دادگاه تجدید نظر اتهام محاربه را به اتهامات او اضافه کرد و حکم اعدام برای فتاحیان صادر کرد. قانون در ایران به صراحت دادگاه های تجدید نظر را از افزایش احکام دادگاه های بدوی منع کرده است. اتهامات جدید علیه تاجبخش نشانه یک روند فراقانونی است که احتمالا به جریان افتاده است.

کیان تاجبخش از دسترسی به وکیل مستقل محروم است و مسئولین، هوشنگ ازهاری؛ وکیل تسخیری را به او تحمیل کرده اند.

کمپین بین المللی حقوق بشر در ایران از قوه قضائیه می خواهد که فورا تاحبخش و همه دگراندیشان و فعالانی را که ناعادلانه تحت آزار و اذیت و محاکمه هستند، آزاد کند. کمپین بین المللی حقوق بشر همچنین از اینکه سپاه پاسداران نهادهای قضایی را غصب می کند و آنها را

Call for Letters (Source: Scholars at Risk Network)

By , November 16, 2009 9:53 am

The Scholars at Risk Network, an international network of universities and colleges promoting academic freedom and defending the human rights of scholars and their communities worldwide, has issued a letter-writing appeal for Kian’s release:

“SAR is gravely concerned about reports indicating that Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, a respected international scholar and researcher, has been arrested, convicted and sentenced to over 12 years in prison… Dr. Tajbakhsh’s arrest, conviction and holding in solitary confinement raise grave concerns for his well-bring. The suddenness of Dr. Tajbakhsh’s arrest and the lack of any clear basis for his detention and conviction raise grave concerns about the ability of internationally recognized scholars and intellectuals to safely visit Iran…

Scholars at Risk therefore joins with the many national and international academic associations, scholarly societies, human rights organizations and individual scholars that respectfully urge the Iranian government to examine the circumstances of Dr. Tajbakhsh’s arrest and conviction.”

[Full appeal]

International PEN marks Day of the Imprisoned Writer (Source: RFE/RL)

In an interview with Radio Free Europe, Sara Wyatt, the director of the writers in prison committee at the worldwide association of writers International PEN, speaks about Kian’s case on the occasion of the Day of the Imprisoned Writer:

“The rights and prison committee of International PEN will be 50 years old next year, and I would say that during most of this time PEN has been concerned about writers in Iran, be it those detained under the Shah or post revolution…

And today there are at least eight writers and journalists in prison and many more are on trial or on bail, others have been conditionally released on health and humanitarian grounds. Sometimes they’ve been in this state of limbo for many, many years with the threat of being re-imprisoned if they once again speak out or commit the original so-called crimes…

One of the five cases that we’re looking at this year is that of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian writer who was among the 100 who were arrested in June this year for their involvement in the demonstrations, protesting the outcome of the presidential election. He’s relatively lucky because he was actually freed last month on an enormous bail of 300,000 pounds and has been allowed to leave the country pending trial to be present at the birth of his child.

But others have not been so lucky; and there have been a series of unfair trials in recent weeks, some of which have resulted in huge sentences, among them is the Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, who got 12 years in prison. We’re deeply concerned about that.”

[Full interview]

Cruel, Pointless Games (Source: New York Times)

The editors of the New York Times have called for the release of Kian and the three American hikers reportedly charged with espionage:

“…The hikers’ case is only the latest example of the Iranian government misusing and undermining its judiciary for political ends.

Scores of protesters and journalists were jailed after major demonstrations over June’s fraudulent presidential elections. Last month, an Iranian court convicted Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar, of fomenting antigovernment unrest and sentenced him to [12 to] 15 years in prison…

Iran has a right to lock up legitimate criminals if they are tried fairly. But the spectacle of three Americans subjected to a show trial will make it even less likely that the world will give Iran the respect it insists it deserves — or even a serious hearing…”

[Full editorial]

International human rights organizations appeal for the release of Kian Tajbakhsh; Amnesty launches Urgent Action Appeal (Sources: Amnesty International; International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran; Human Rights Watch)

By , November 4, 2009 6:03 am

Leading international human rights organizations are urging Iranian authorities to overturn the unjust 15-year prison sentence imposed on Kian by an extra-judicial court presiding over show trial proceedings.

Amnesty International has launched an Urgent Action Appeal letter-writing campaign calling for Kian’s release. Please take a moment to participate!

Amnesty International‘s Middle East and North Africa Programme Director Malcolm Smart, for example, states in the report “Iran must overturn sentences issued by post-election ‘show trial’” that:

“The ‘show trial’ that has so far led to the imprisonment of Kian Tajbakhsh and a number of other reformist politicians and journalists, as well as the imposition of at least four death sentences, was grossly unfair and a travesty of justice…

The authorities should welcome the part that intellectuals can play towards developing the political and social life of their country, instead of locking them up on spurious charges… It appears that Kian Tajbakhsh has been targetted on account of his dual nationality and his academic work, and we consider him a prisoner of conscience.”

In their report “Iranian-American Scholar Prevented From Filing an Appeal ,” International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran spokesperson Hadi Ghaemi emphasizes that:

“The Iranian Judiciary is blatantly trampling over its own rules and regulations. In doing so, the authorities are confirming that Tajbakhsh’s detention, trial and conviction are patently politically motivated… By treating the law in this arbitrary manner, they are also demonstrating that the rule of law means nothing in Iran.”

In “Iran: Overturn Death Sentences; Other Unfair Convictions,Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson states:

“Death sentences following unfair trials expose the mockery of Iran’s judicial system… Those responsible need to quash these verdicts and sentences, and ensure that everyone detained, or put on trial, has free and regular access to a lawyer of their choosing.”

In “Why is the Iranian government so afraid of Kian Tajbakhsh?” Amnesty’s Human Rights Now researcher Elise Auerbach concludes:

“By attempting to portray Kian Tajbakhsh as an existential threat to the Islamic Republic and inflicting such a disproportionately harsh punishment on him, the Iranian authorities seem to be going to preposterous lengths to draw in as many elements of society as possible into a continually sucking vortex of fear and oppression.”

Appeal to Iran’s Supreme Leader to release Kian Tajbakhsh (Source: American Sociological Association)

The prestigious American Sociological Association has written a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader appealing for Kian’s release. The letter reads in part:

“Your Excellency:

We are writing on behalf of the nearly 15,000 members of the American Sociological Association (ASA), a scientific society of academic and professional sociologists, to request that the Iranian Judiciary rescind its 15-year prison sentence issued against Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh, an internationally respected sociologist colleague with dual national Iranian-American citizenship. We urge further that there be an immediate review of his case in accordance with international human rights provisions.

While he is in your custody, we urge you to use your good offices to guarantee his safety and freedom from mistreatment, and allow him to confer with legal counsel of his choosing. We urge you to determine the circumstances of his detention and to secure his immediate release…”

[Full ASA letter]

The New Hostage Crisis (Source: Foreign Policy)

By , October 24, 2009 9:44 am

In a cover story for Foreign Policy magazine, Kian’s friend Karim Sadjadpour considers Kian’s detention and sentencing and questions “why Iran’s rulers imprison people they know are innocent”:

“My friend, the Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, was recently sentenced to 15 years in Tehran’s Evin prison. For those familiar with the ways of authoritarian regimes, the charges against him will ring familiar: espionage, cooperating with an enemy government, and endangering national security.

Since his arrest last July — he was accused of helping to plan the post-election uprisings — Kian’s family and friends have made countless appeals for clemency to the Iranian government, written letters to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pleading his innocence, and signed dozens of petitions. All to no avail.

I’ve come now to realize that the regime probably thinks we’re obtuse. Indeed, they know better than anyone that Kian is an innocent man. As the expression goes in Persian, “da’va sar-e een neest,” i.e. that’s not what this fight is about.

Allow me to explain.

Kian was first arrested in 2007. His crime was having previously worked as a consultant for the Open Society Institute (OSI), a U.S.-based NGO. Though his work was nonpolitical, focused on educational and developmental projects, and had received the explicit consent of the Iranian government, he was accused of trying to foment a “velvet revolution” on behalf of U.S. intelligence agencies.

While in solitary confinement in Evin, he was subjected to countless hours of interrogation. Had the authorities found any evidence for the above charges during all this, Kian certainly would not have been freed after four months.

He was permitted to leave the country after his release, but chose to remain in Tehran with his wife and newborn daughter. He reassured his worried family and friends that he was now an open book to the Iranian government and there could be no further rationale or pretext to detain him.

Over the last two years, he regularly met with his minder from the Ministry of Intelligence. Aware of the fact that the government was monitoring all of his activities and communications — including e-mail and telephone conversations — he kept a very low profile and exhibited great caution.

During this period, Kian and I regularly exchanged e-mails. He urged me to read his favorite book, Polish writer Czeslaw Milosz’s brilliant novel, The Captive Mind, which examines the moral and intellectual conflicts faced by men and women living under totalitarianism of the left or right.

On the 30th anniversary of the fall of the shah we debated the successes and failures of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and he told me he believed that the former outweigh the latter. Hardly the worldview of a subversive counterrevolutionary.

Even amid the massive popular uprisings following the tainted June 2009 presidential elections, Kian remained cautious and unmoved, steering way clear of any political activity and continuing to meet with his minder.

On June 14, two days after the election, he wrote me an email saying, “I’m keeping my head down … I have nothing to add to all the reports that are here.” In the same e-mail, Kian even expressed skepticism about the opposition’s accusations of electoral fraud, saying he had seen “little hard evidence.”

A few weeks later he was arrested, bafflingly, on charges of helping to plan the post-election unrest.

Given the government’s intimate familiarity with the benign nature of Kian’s activities and communications, it appeared he was simply needed as an unfortunate pawn in the regime’s campaign to portray indigenous popular protests as orchestrated by foreign powers. Though the unrest gradually subsided, we went from counting Kian’s detention in days to weeks to months.

Along with dozens of other prisoners, dressed in pajamas and sandals, he was forced to participate in humiliating show-trials that were broadcast on official state television. Hard-liners used Kian to attack their reformist opponents, inventing fantastic claims that he was the link between former President Mohammed Khatami and OSI founder George Soros.

Though his face looked visibly different, haggard, his two-year old daughter Hasti ran and kissed the television screen when she saw his image. His wife sobbed.

When our courageous mutual friend, Canadian-Iranian Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, was finally released from Evin after four months, we thought it boded well for Kian. These hopes were dashed by Tuesday’s almost comically harsh sentence. 15 years!

The over-the-top severity of the sentence makes it eminently clear that this case really has little to do with Kian, and everything to do with Iran’s negotiating posture toward the United States. A disaffected contact in the Iranian foreign ministry — the vast majority of whom were thought to have voted for Mir Hossein Mousavi — bluntly confirmed my suspicions. “Eena daran bazi mikonan,” he told me. “These guys are just playing.”

While neighboring Dubai and Turkey have managed to build thriving economies by trading in goods and services, Iran, even 30 years after the revolution, remains in the business of trading in human beings. In addition to Kian, Iran is now holding at least five other American citizens against their will, including three young hikers — Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal (an outspoken Palestinian-rights activist) — detained in June along the Iran-Iraq border in Kurdistan.

What, if anything, Tehran seeks in return for these human subjects is unclear, and frankly it’s a difficult issue for Iran to broach, given that it undermines the accusations the regime has concocted. That said, the official line can often change abruptly, and for no apparent reason. After Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was sentenced last year to eight years in prison (on preposterous charges of espionage), she was summarily released a few weeks later.

Until recently, it was accepted wisdom that the uptick in Tehran’s repression of its own citizenry and detention of U.S. nationals was merely a reaction to the hostile policies of the Bush administration. This thesis is being quickly disproven as the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to human rights in Iran proves equally unsuccessful in getting the regime to improve its practices.

Whether Republic or Democrat, U.S. officials are often puzzled by the detention of dual nationals, and unsure how to react to them. Do U.S. statements and/or diplomatic efforts help or hurt the cause of the detainees?

Based on the experience of several Iranian-Americans who have served time in Evin — including esteemed scholar Haleh Esfandiari, Saberi, and peace activist Ali Shakeri — we know that thoughtful public statements from U.S. officials coupled with behind-the scenes intervention were helpful to their cause.

But these are individual cases. What U.S. policy measures could help improve the overall human rights situation in Iran, and prevent further detentions from taking place in the future?

Broadly speaking, I support the argument — made mostly by the American left — that expanding and improving ties between Washington and Tehran would help mitigate the detention of innocents in Iran — whether Iranian or American.

I also agree with the counterargument, made mostly by the right, that Tehran’s hard-liners use continued enmity with the United States in order to blame Washington when, among other things, their population rises up, economic malaise worsens, or a terrorist attack happens in Baluchistan.

Unfortunately, the difficulty of potential engagement has increased significantly in recent months as any remaining moderates and pragmatists have essentially been purged from the Iranian government’s power structure. The color spectrum of the regime now ranges from pitch black to dark grey. And insofar as the continued detention of U.S. citizens in Tehran decreases the likelihood of a diplomatic breakthrough with Washington, the interests of at least some of these hard-liners will be served.

Sadly, languishing in Evin prison, my friend Kian understands this dynamic only too well.

Shortly after President Obama’s speech in Cairo last June, Kian wrote, “Iranians might ponder Barack Obama’s challenge to Iran to articulate ‘not what it is against, but what future it wants to build.’ Each Iranian will wonder how much thought our rulers or our fellow countrymen have given to this critical question and why answers to it are so vague and so few.”

[Full article]

U.S. White House statement on the sentencing of Kian Tajbakhsh (Source: The White House)

By , October 21, 2009 2:53 am

The United States White House has issued the following statement via its Press Secretary:

“We express our deepest regret and strong objection that the Islamic Republic of Iran has sentenced Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh to 15 years in prison. Mr. Tajbakhsh poses no threat to Iran or its national security. As an independent and internationally-respected scholar, Mr. Tajbakhsh has dedicated his life to fostering greater understanding between Iran and the international community. He embodies what is possible between our two countries. Our thoughts and prayers are with Kian’s family and loved ones on this difficult day.

Further, we are deeply concerned that Mr. Tajbakhsh may have been forced to stand trial in the revolutionary court without the benefit of his own legal counsel. The right to due process is universal and must be respected. The right to a fair and public hearing is embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the right to legal representation is also guaranteed in Iran’s own constitution, as well as in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. We urge Iran to release Mr. Tajbakhsh as soon as possible.”

[Link to statement]

Interview (Source: Foreign Policy)

By , October 16, 2009 7:21 am

In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine, Iranian American academic Haleh Esfandiari urged officials to continue exerting pressure to secure the release of Kian and other Iranian political prisoners:

“FP: Do you see any sea change among Iranian-American intellectuals regarding engaging with Iran?

HE: I’ll talk about myself because each of us has a different opinion on this issue. I still believe in engagement. But in Geneva two weeks ago and next week in Vienna, when [the Western powers and Iran] sit and talk, the human rights issues must also be on the table. They should not just focus on the nuclear issue. That’s what the Iranians would love to do. But no, they should also talk about the human rights issue, because it’s very important.

Look, we have three American hikers sitting in jail somewhere in Iran. You have an Iranian-American, Kian Tajbakhsh, sitting in jail… Plus, there are thousands of Iranian activists who are sitting in jail. Talk about them — talk about them all the time! What really helped me get out was this international pressure, day in and day out…”

[Full article]

Arien Mack, Professor of Psychology at The New School for Social Research, appeals for Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh’s release

By , October 6, 2009 12:13 am

Jonathan Fanton, former president of The New School and former president of The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, appeals for Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh’s release

Joint US-Canada statement on Kian and other Americans and Canadians detained in Iran (Source: US State Department)

By , September 26, 2009 4:05 pm

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon issued a joint statement calling on Iran to safely and rapidly return Kian and all detained and missing foreign citizens to their respective countries:

“Canada and the United States are deeply concerned about the continued detention of Canadian and American citizens, including dual nationals, inside Iran and once again urge Iran’s leadership to positively resolve these cases as a humanitarian gesture and in accordance with their obligations under international conventions. Individuals in detention include Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari; Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh; retired Iranian-American businessman Reza Taghavi; and American hikers Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd. American Robert Levinson has also been missing in Iran since March 2007.

We call on the Government of Iran to provide American and Canadian detainees with immediate consular access, full legal rights and protection, and a complete and transparent account of the charges against them.

As we have stated in the past, we fully respect the sovereignty of Iran. At the same time, we seek the safe and rapid return of all detained and missing citizens in Iran to their respective countries so that they might be reunited with their families.”

[Link to statement]
[Link to September 25 State Department press briefing by Spokesman Ian Kelly]

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