Posts tagged: Joshua Fattal

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]

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

By , December 20, 2009 7:13 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Full editorial]

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]

What’s behind Iran’s espionage charge against US hikers (Source: Christian Science Monitor)

By , November 9, 2009 3:36 am

An article about Iran’s announcement of plans to charge three detained American hikers with espionage mentions Kian’s case as well:

“Iran announced Monday that three American hikers – Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal – arrested July 31 amid post-election tensions had been charged with espionage…

According to Iranian law, the charges could result in the death penalty. But past precedent suggests that the decision by Iran’s hard-line judiciary could be a bid by some right-wing factions in Iran to block any chance of US-Iran reconciliation. It could also be used as a diplomatic card to gain concessions, or to exacerbate already tricky nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West…

Iran is also holding academic Kian Tajbakhsh, a dual US-Iran citizen, who was arrested shortly after the violence began and charged along with 140 senior reformist figures and activists with national security offenses aimed at toppling the regime. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail last month for activity related to the post-election protests.

Earlier this year dual US-Iranian citizen Roxana Saberi was arrested in Tehran, charged with espionage, and sentenced to eight years in prison. The sentence was reversed on appeal, and she was released to her parents in May, after more than three months in prison.

Analysts at the time said her arrest was a deliberate attempt by hard-line faction “spoilers” to derail President Barack Obama’s attempts at dialogue with Tehran.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took the unusual step of intervening in Saberi’s case, writing to the judiciary to be sure she was granted all her rights…”

[Full article]

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]

Obama demands action from Iran after nuclear talks (Source: AFP)

By , October 2, 2009 5:32 pm

An article by Agence France Press notes that US officials meeting with their Iranian counterparts officially for the first time in nearly 30 years called on Iran to release Kian and other Amerian detainees:

“WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama Thursday demanded swift and “constructive” action from Iran following crucial nuclear talks, and warned that his patience for dialogue with the arch-US foe was limited.
Obama said the meeting between world powers and Tehran in Geneva, which included the highest-level direct talks between the United States and Iran in three decades, was a “constructive” start to defusing a nuclear standoff…

US negotiator [Undersecretary of State] William Burns and Iran’s top atomic point-man Saeed Jalili held a landmark private meeting on the sidelines of the talks — the biggest test yet of Obama’s pro-engagement strategy.

Officials said the discussions centered on the nuclear issue and human rights, and called the talks “frank” and “very straightforward.”

“This all sounds like diplomatic parlance but it was pretty direct and candid on a range of issues,” a senior US administration official said.

The State Department said Burns asked the Iranians to urgently act on the cases of a number of Americans detained in Iran.

“We stressed that the detention of these American citizens is an urgent matter that must be resolved as soon as possible,” spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters.

The detained Americans have been identified as: Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh; retired Iranian-American businessman Reza Taghavi; and American hikers Joshua Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd…”

[Full article]

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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