Category: Statements of support

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]

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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)

By , November 16, 2009 9:50 am

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)

By , November 16, 2009 9:46 am

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)

By , November 4, 2009 5:21 am

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]

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