Posts tagged: Kian Tajbakhsh

Message of thanks from Kian

By , January 31, 2016 3:55 am

Dear Friends,
I would like to thank all those family members and friends – official and unofficial – who expended great effort over the course of many years to help resolve my case, finally allowing us to leave Iran for the US.

I would like to thank the US and Swiss governments for their tremendous diplomatic efforts and support.

In particular, I would like to thank my friend Pamela Kilpadi, who launched a formidable campaign in my defense and worked persistently year after year to coordinate and facilitate various efforts on my behalf.

My oldest friend, Andrew Parker, did not hesitate to offer help at critical moments.

President Lee Bollinger of Columbia University has been a source of steadfast support, as have colleagues at Columbia and The New School.

I look forward to getting back to work in academia and rebuilding a life in the US.


The family requests that all media respect their privacy during this time of private reunion and celebration.

Kian and family in the USA

Kian and family in Phoenix, Arizona (Jan. 30)

Departure from Iran!

By , January 29, 2016 3:28 am

We are thrilled to report that Kian, his wife Bahar and daughter Hasti received their travel papers in the days leading up to January 16th, and were able to leave Iran on January 28th!


Kian and Hasti on the plane


Further Extension of Temporary Release Approved, Freedom to Travel Requested

By , April 23, 2010 3:15 am

Kian’s request for a further extention of his temporary release has been approved, allowing him to remain at home. He and his family are well, and are free to travel within the country. While he is currently unable to leave Iran, Kian is optimistic that his request to travel internationally will receive a positive reply. He sincerely hopes to be able to assume his academic post at Columbia University as soon as possible.

Many thanks again for the kind wishes and support.

Temporary Freedom Extended!

By , April 3, 2010 5:59 am

Kian and his family are pleased to report the approval of their appeal to extend the period of his release.

They sincerely hope to be able to remain together, while further legal procedures are underway in an attempt to resolve his case.

Thank you again for your wishes and support.

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

By , March 14, 2010 6:59 pm

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

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

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

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

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

By , March 12, 2010 10:46 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Link to full article]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Link to full article]

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

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

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

[Full statement]

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

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

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

[Link to full conference]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Link to article]

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]

Iran Mobilizes to Stifle Opposition Protests (Source: Wall Street Journal)

By , February 11, 2010 1:44 pm

WSJ’s Farnaz Fassihi reported on the run-up to Iran’s February 11 anniversary demonstrations, including news of Kian’s appeal:

“BEIRUT—Iranian authorities deployed in force across Tehran Wednesday to conduct last-minute security sweeps and warn residents to refrain from joining antigovernment protests planned for Thursday.

The government typically orchestrates large, carnival-like rallies and demonstrations to mark the anniversary of the Islamic Republic. For this year’s events on Feb. 11, the day marking the culmination of the annual celebrations, opposition leaders have called for protesters to demonstrate against the regime. That has set the stage for clashes between authorities and demonstrators, who have taken to the streets repeatedly to protest the outcome of presidential elections in June.

Government officials, meanwhile, ratcheted up threats against any protests Thursday, vowing to confront demonstrators on the streets and calling for government supporters to turn out in large numbers. Iranian officials have branded protesters as agents of foreign powers.

The Iranian judiciary has handed down a number of harsh sentences against protesters arrested in previous demonstrations, including at least 10 pending death sentences.

On Wednesday, semi-official news services and opposition Web sites reported last-minute attempts by police and plain-clothes militia to suppress antigovernment demonstrations.

Basij militia took over a large bus and taxi station in western Tehran, shutting it down and draping a banner over the terminal stating the area will serve as headquarters for security forces.

Iranian Web sites said the bus terminal would also be used by security forces coming in from the provinces to help suppress protests in the capital.

The government typically buses in large numbers of government supporters from outlying regions to Tehran to participate in rallies.

Meanwhile, human-rights groups in Iran reported late Wednesday that 19 mothers whose children were killed in previous post-election unrest, had been detained by authorities.

Iran’s telecommunications agency announced what it described as a permanent suspension of Google Inc.’s email services, saying instead that a national email service for Iranian citizens would soon be rolled out. It wasn’t clear late Wednesday what effect the order had on Google’s email services in Iran.Iranians have reported widespread service disruptions to Internet and text messaging services, though mobile phones appeared to be operating normally Wednesday.

Google didn’t have an immediate comment about the announcement.

Police have also confiscated satellite dishes from residential roof tops, according to opposition Web sites. Some pedestrians have been quoted on opposition Web sites saying that their mobile phones were searched and, in some cases, taken by police patrolling areas of the capital where protests have erupted in the past.

Iranian authorities tasked with upholding Islamic values have also been scouring the streets, harassing people wearing green, the trademark color of the opposition, according to witness accounts posted on opposition Web sites.

Basij forces, the mostly volunteer corps of progovernment militia, have distributed flyers to homes in many neighborhoods, saying that progovernment supporters “will confront the enemies of Islam” in any protests Thursday.

In south Tehran, Basij members came in a caravan of 15 motorbikes, according to several opposition sites, whose accounts corroborated with each other. They knocked on doors and handed out flyers, or threw them over the street-side walls of residential compounds, the reports said.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country’s elite security force, has deployed its troops along routes planned for the opposition demonstrations on Thursday.

Local media have been warned to avoid provocative headlines and not to cover protests not sanctioned by the state. The few foreign reporters still accredited to work in Iran have been told they can only cover government celebrations, and are banned from interviewing opposition supporters or regular citizens.

Political dissidents and activists who were recently released from jail have been called in by the intelligence ministry in the past few days and warned not to take part in demonstrations on Thursday, according to a report by the Organization to Defend Human Rights and Democracy in Iran, a local human-rights group.

Opposition leaders don’t appear to be backing down. Mehdi Karroubi, a former presidential candidate, said Wednesday he will march peacefully from a neighborhood in west Tehran towards the capital’s Azadi Square Thursday morning.

Opposition Web sites reported that former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, an opposition leader, held an emergency meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday night, complaining about the heavy-handed crackdowns ahead of Feb. 11 and calling for “the end of shameful actions” against protesters.

Despite the crackdown, authorities Wednesday appeared to also signal some flexibility. Iran’s Revolutionary Court on Wednesday reduced the prison sentence of Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh to five years in from 15, in an appellate hearing. Mr. Tajbakhsh was sentenced on charges of plotting against national security.

Alireza Beheshti, a top aide to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, was released from prison Tuesday night in critical condition, after suffering a heart attack in Evin prison this week, according to opposition Web sites.”

[Link to article]

In Tehran, opposition and government gather forces on eve of 22 Bahman (Source: LA Times)

The expected protests on February 11 have prompted Iranian officials to order sweeping arrests and a media crackdown punctuated by occasional demonstrations of leniency toward certain political prisoners including Kian:

“Helicopters circled overhead Wednesday as municipal workers erected refreshment stands in Tehran’s Azadi Square in preparation for Thursday’s nationwide celebration of the founding of the Islamic Republic, according to eyewitnesses.

Meanwhile, opposition protesters are steeling themselves for an impending showdown, coming up with slogans such as “Yes, Islamic Republic, but not dictatorship”; “The continuation of revolution is to fight despotism”; and “Death to oppressors, whether in Gaza or Tehran,” according to a witness.

“The regime is really scared,” one resident of the capital wrote in an e-mail to The Times. “Anytime [the helicopters] fly over my domicile, everything trembles.”

Major television channels Wednesday were dominated by footage of previous years’ rallies accompanied by patriotic songs and scrolling tickers that read, “The Iranian nation will rise up on 22 Bahman and will voice their cries of freedom and anti-tyranny.”

Alternative media outlets and social networking sites were abuzz with rumors of “shoot to kill” orders and Chinese paintball guns for tagging protesters.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed that the government will be “the sole owner of 22 Bahman,” but the authorities aren’t taking any chances.

Security forces have announced that no opposition will be tolerated, and have arrested several individuals for preparing “deviant slogans.”

“If anyone wants to disrupt this glorious ceremony, they will be confronted by people and we too are fully prepared,” Police Chief Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam told Fars news agency.

The judiciary also sent a strong message Wednesday, sentencing one protester to death and eight to prison for participating in protests in December, and upholding sentences for 35 people arrested in connection with the post-election unrest, according to the website, the official news outlet of the judiciary.

An appeals court did, however, reduce the Iranian American academic Kian Tajbakhsh’s sentence from 15 to five.

Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders says more than 65 journalists and “netizens” have been imprisoned in Iran.

“This is a figure that is without precedent since Reporters Without Borders was created in 1985,” the organization’s secretary-general, Jean-François Julliard, said in a statement on the group’s website. “The detainees include journalists based in Tehran and the provinces.”

Those with connections to opposition figures are also reportedly being rounded up. The nephew of Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, was detained after security forces summoned him to Evin Prison to “answer to some questions,” and two senior members of the Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution have been dismissed for their cooperation with Mousavi’s presidential campaigning committees.”

[Link to article]

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

By , February 10, 2010 1:46 pm

A conference dedicated to Kian entitled “Iran: The Politics of Resistance” is scheduled to be held at the New School in New York City this Friday, Febraury 12.

[Conference program]

Iran court cuts jail term for U.S.-Iranian scholar (Source: Reuters)

Although Kian’s 15-year sentence has been reduced to 5 years on appeal, the struggle to free him continues. The news was announced by his court-appointed (as opposed to independent) lawyer in advance of tomorrow’s expected protests:

“TEHRAN (Reuters) – An Iranian appeal court has reduced to five years the jail sentence for an Iranian-American scholar detained after last year’s disputed election and accused of espionage, an Iranian news agency reported on Wednesday.

In October, official media said Kian Tajbakhsh was sentenced to more than 12 years in jail.

“The appeal court sentenced my client … to five years in jail,” said lawyer Houshang Azhari, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.

“It was a very good reduction … about two-thirds of the initial sentence,” he said.

Last year, the U.S. State Department said it had been told that Tajbakhsh was jailed for 15 years and it urged Tehran to immediately release him, saying the United States was deeply concerned about the long jail term.

Tajbakhsh was among thousands of people detained after the presidential poll in June last year, which plunged the Islamic Republic into turmoil. He was accused of espionage and acting against national security.

The moderate opposition says the vote was rigged to secure President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election. Officials deny the accusations.

Iranian authorities have portrayed the protests that erupted after the election as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the Islamic Republic’s clerical leadership.

Tajbakhsh, an Iranian American who holds a doctorate in urban planning from Columbia University, was first arrested by Iranian authorities in May 2007, charged with spying and then released after more than four months in Tehran’s Evin prison.

The United States, which cut diplomatic ties with Tehran after the revolution, accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is to generate electricity so it can export more oil and gas.”

[Link to article]

Kian Tajbakhsh’s 15 year sentence will be overturned (Source: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran)

Prior to the verdict on Kian’s appeal, his lawyer explained that his sentence should be overturned:

“Replying to a question from International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran about the case of Kian Tajbakhsh, a post elections prisoner whose case is in an appeals court, Kian Tajbakhsh’s attorney said: “Regarding the appeals request I filed with the Revolutionary Courts after the initial court’s verdict, soon we expect an appeals verdict and God willing, through efforts and existing evidence, this ruling will be overturned.”

Massoud Shafiee told the Campaign that by reviewing Kian Tajbakhsh’s case, he has come to the conclusion that no crime has taken place and he has asked the Appeals Court to consider exonerating his client. “I have asked for an exoneration and I hope that the fair judge would consider the evidence in the case and rule for my client’s innocence.”

Referring to Tajbakhsh’s initial court, his attorney also said: “He had a court appointed lawyer in the initial court. In the beginning of his case he had bail orders. When I entered the case at appeals stage, I noticed that his bail orders had been converted to detention orders.” He emphasized that he has read the case and he is sure that the ruling will be overturned.

Kian Tajbakhsh’s initial bail was set at $500,000. According to Shafiee, he can meet with his family every Thursday and is currently in a house outside the prison with other post-elections prisoners. His detention location is under the custody of IRGC. Previously, he was kept in IRGC’s Ward 2.”

[Link to article]

Clinton urges Iran to ‘unilaterally release’ Americans (Source: AFP)

By , February 3, 2010 5:22 am

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking to reporters in Washington with Bahrain’s foreign minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, renewed calls for the unconditional release of Americans held in Iran including Kian:

“WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Wednesday on  Iran to “unilaterally release” three hikers and other Americans in Iranian custody as she denied there were any negotiations on a prisoner swap.

In a state television interview, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadineja said Tuesday that talks about exchanging prisoners with Washington were underway when asked about the fate of three American hikers detained in Iran…

“There are no negotiations taking place between the United States and Iran. We believe they should unilaterally release our detained citizens,” the chief US diplomat said.

Clinton repeated previous demands that all US citizens held in Iran should be released “without delay” on humanitarian grounds because their detention “is baseless.”

Earlier, her spokesman Philip Crowley dismissed the idea of a prisoner swap with Iran, saying Americans in Iranian custody cannot be equated with Iranians convicted in US courts.

“We’re not interested in a swap per se,” Crowley told reporters. “We are interested in resolving the cases of our citizens.”

Iran is holding a number of US citizens in custody, including hikers Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, who were arrested on July 31 after wandering over the Iraq border into Iranian territory.

Crowley added that Washington also wants the release of US citizens Reza Taghavi and Kian Tajbakhsh, and remains concerned about the fate of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing during a visit to Iran in 2007.

“There’s not really an equivalence, if you will, between, say, an Iranian citizen who has been indicted and or convicted of arms trafficking, in violation of… international law, and three hikers who wandered across an unmarked border,” Crowley said.

But he and Clinton repeated the US stand that Washington remained open to questions from Tehran about Iranians held in the United States.

“To the extent that Iran has questions about Iranian citizens in US custody, we would remain… willing to entertain those questions and facilitate consular access, if that’s what Iran desires,” Crowley said.

Iran alleges that 11 Iranians are “illegally” detained in the United States, including nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who went missing in Saudi Arabia while on pilgrimage to Mecca last year.

Crowley said he did not know how many Iranians were in US custody.

In a case unveiled for the first time on December 2 last year, US prosecutors said an Iranian man, Amir Ardebili, pleaded guilty in May 2008 to 14 counts of violating US arms control rules.

Court documents obtained two weeks later by AFP showed he had been sentenced to five years in prison for trafficking weapons to Tehran.

Prosecutors said Ardebili was apprehended in an unnamed Central Asian country in October 2007 and extradited to United States, where he had been secretly detained since January 2008.

The State Department said an Iranian government representative could visit him.”

[Link to full article]

“We’re prepared to listen” (Source: Politico)

U.S. National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer was quoted in the influential blog Politico urging the resolution of Kian’s case, along with those of other missing and detained Americans in Iran:

“…In what was being reported as a potentially signficant shift, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Iranian State Television today that Iran is ready to send its uranium abroad…

A western diplomatic source said Ahmadinejad’s comments reflect that Iran is nervous about the threat of further sanctions and pressure…

Ahmadinejad also reportedly told Iranian State TV that Iran would consider exchanging U.S. citizens being detained in Iran for Iranians being held abroad. “We are having talks to have an exchange if it is possible,” Ahmadinejad was cited. “We are hopeful that all prisoners will be released.”

The NSC’s [Mike] Hammer stressed that the reports of what Ahmadinejad said are fragmentary, and the U.S. has not entered into any discussion with Iran about an exchange.

“We have made clear that we would like the cases of all our missing and detained Americans citizens to be resolved,” Hammer said, including those of “Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer, Kian Tajbakhsh, Reza Taghavi, and Robert Levinson.”

Shourd, Fattal and Bauer have been detained in Iran since accidentally wandering into Iran while hiking in northern Iraq last summer. Tajbakhsh is an Iranian-American scholar arrested in Iran in the post-elections dispute. Robert Levinson is a former FBI agent who went missing while meeting a contact in Kish Island almost three years ago.

“If President Ahmadinejad’s comments suggest that they are prepared to resolve these cases, we would welcome that step,” Hammer continued. “But we have not entered into any discussion with Iran about an exchange. As we have indicated publicly, if Iran has questions about its citizens in U.S. custody, we are prepared to answer them.”

POLITICO previously reported that Swiss diplomats acting as intermediaries have told U.S. officials that Iran was seeking to link the case of the three U.S. hikers detained in Iran, and several Iranians detained in the U.S., Europe and Canada, many on export control violation-related charges.”

[Link to full article]

Iran puts 16 protesters on trial (Source: Associated Press)

By , January 31, 2010 7:11 am

AP writer Nasser Karimi mentioned Kian in his summary of Iran’s latest show trial:

“TEHRAN – Iran put 16 opposition supporters detained during anti-government protests last month on trial Saturday on charges of rioting and conspiring against the ruling system, Iran’s state media reported…

The new prosecutions, coupled with the execution on Thursday of two men accused of involvement in anti-government groups, could mark an attempt by Iran’s hardline leaders to intimidate the opposition ahead of a new round of street demonstrations expected in February…

The protesters have presented Iran’s cleric-led establishment with its biggest challenge since the 1979 revolution despite a brutal crackdown that has left hundreds imprisoned…

During previous mass trials in Iran, many human rights groups have cautioned that..confessions are often made under duress in Iran…

Iran’s hardline government has quashed opposition rallies and tried more than 100 political activists since August, sentencing 11 people to death and more than 80 people to prison terms ranging from six months to 15 years…

Iran held its first postelection mass trial in August, accusing more than 100 activists of plotting to overthrow the regime. Those prosecutions brought charges against some prominent reformist opposition politicians, including former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh and the leader of the biggest reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Mohsen Mirdamadi.

There were also three foreign citizens — Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, who holds Iranian and Canadian citizenship, and a 24-year-old French academic, Clotilde Reiss — among those on trial. Bahari has since been released on bail and has left the country.

Despite the crackdown, opposition activists have continued to hold sporadic, large street rallies. The opposition says Ahmadinejad’s victory in the June election was fraudulent and call for his removal — though some in the movement have expanded to criticize Iran’s clerical leadership.”

[Link to full article]

Kian’s birthday (Source: Family and Friends)

By , January 25, 2010 6:07 am

If you would like to send Kian a wish on his birthday or sign the online petition calling for his release, please do so here.

“Family and friends of Kian Tajbakhsh extend their love and best wishes to Kian on his birthday.”

Iran’s Post-Election Unrest is Now a Full-Blown Human Rights Crisis (Source: Human Rights Watch)

By , January 24, 2010 7:07 am

At a news conference in Dubai, the prominent international nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch released its new World Report 2010 and summarized human rights conditions in several countries in the region including Iran:

“Iran’s post-election crackdown following the disputed presidential elections on June 12 has turned into a human rights disaster, Human Rights Watch said. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Basij militia, and police arbitrarily arrested thousands of peaceful protesters and dissidents, including students, women’s rights activists, lawyers, and prominent human rights defenders in a clear effort to intimidate critics and stifle dissent. Government officials confirmed that as of November at least 30 protesters had died as a result of attacks by Basij and anti-riot police or in detention. At least seven more died in clashes on December 27, the holy day of Ashura. The actual number of deaths caused by government-sponsored violence is believed to be much higher.

“The systematic and brutal targeting of demonstrators and government critics by security forces shows that the regime’s crackdown is nothing but an attempt to silence voices of dissent,” [HRW’s deputy Middle East director Joe] Stork said. “Iran’s post-election unrest is now a full-blown human rights crisis.” …

Beginning in August, the Judiciary staged show trials of hundreds of prominent reformers and activists allegedly connected with “rioters” attempting to promote a “velvet revolution.” During these trials, many of these dissidents gave televised confessions that appeared coerced. These confessions implicated the detainees in vaguely worded security crimes described in lengthy indictments filed by Revolutionary Court prosecutors. Some of those put on trial received lengthy prison terms and several were sentenced to death.

“The Iranian Judiciary’s show trials of hundreds of demonstrators and dissidents ranks among the most absurd displays of prosecutorial abuse I have witnessed in recent memory,” Stork said…

[Link to full report]

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]

Iran Ban Targets Some 60 ‘Seditious’ Western Groups (Source: RFE/RL)

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has issued a list of 60 U.S. and international organizations that it accuses of inciting this summer’s post-election unrest and fomenting a “soft war” against the Islamic Republic:

“A deputy intelligence minister for international affairs, whose name was not given, accused the groups of working against the Iranian regime and said that contacts and cooperation with them were banned.

The unprecedented move appears to be part of the Iranian authorities’ efforts to isolate critics and activists inside Iran and prevent them from having any contact with the outside world.

Activists and opposition supporters say Iranian authorities have been intensifying efforts to limit the free flow of information in and out of Iran in the wake of mass protests against June’s disputed presidential election.

“Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has always been trying to prevent contacts between Iranians inside the country and international organizations,” says Faraj Sarkuhi, a prominent Iranian exiled writer and journalist. “In the past they accused the publication ‘Adineh,’ of which I was the chief editor, of espionage over contacts with International PEN [writers’ organization] and said it is illegal.”

An extended list of the banned groups on the “gooya” news site includes: [Open Society Institute, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Yale University, RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, the BBC, VOA, Radio Zamaneh], National Endowment for Democracy, National Republican Institute, Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Search For Common Ground Organization, New American Foundation, British Center for Democratic Studies, East European Democratic Center, MEMRI, U.S. National Defense University, The Smith Richardson Foundation, and Brookings Institute.

The intelligence official said that contacts and cooperation with these organizations are banned.

Tini van Goor, director of the human rights department at Hivos, a Dutch NGO among those named, rejected the Iranian authorities’ charges.

But he also said the move came as no surprise, since Hivos — which has worked on women’s rights and HIV/AIDS issues with local civil society groups in Iran — had faced similar accusations in state media in recent years.

“It is simply nonsense what they say that we have an agenda of regime change or whatever,” he told RFE/RL. “No – what we did was being in contact with civil society activists. And those activists, some of them are also activists in the time of the post-election discussions in Tehran. But it is their choice.”

A prominent Tehran-based professor of law, Mahmud Akhundi, told Radio Farda that the Intelligence Ministry’s list and warning have no legal basis.

“It is in clear contradiction with human rights principles and with international principles of law. It doesn’t even have any Sharia-based justification,” Akhundi said. Nobody has the right “to define an action that has not been defined previously as a crime, as being criminal,” he added.

Writer Sarkuhi said he thinks the list could be used against those arrested in the postelection crackdown, which intensified after violence broke out during the Shi’ite commemoration of Ashura on December 27, leaving at least eight people dead.

The Intelligence Ministry “is making such a big claim at a time when Iranian authorities are getting ready to issue heavy sentences against arrested protesters; they want to use it to justify the heavy sentences that are likely to be issued,” Sarkuhi said.

In late November, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran was facing a “soft war” with its enemies abroad, who were fomenting the street protests that hit the country following the disputed June 12 vote.

Many of those arrested in the postelection crackdown have been accused of being involved in a “soft coup” against the Iranian clerical establishment.

Among those arrested and sentenced to jail is a well-known Iranian-American scholar, Kian Tajbakhsh, who used to work as a consultant with Soros’ Open Society Institute. His family and colleagues have rejected all the charges against him as baseless…”

[Full article]

[Related article]

Interview with lawyer for Kian Tajbakhsh (Source: VOA-PNN)

Kian’s lawyer Massoud Shafie discussed his client’s case in this television interview:

Jailed Iranian-American Faces 15 Years In Iran Prison (Source: NPR)

National Public Radio (NPR) has posted a transcript of their story profiling Kian’s case:

Listen to the story

“Scholar Kian Tajbakhsh was supposed to teach at Columbia University this fall. But he’s been detained in an Iranian prison since the summer, when he was arrested in the aftermath of Iran’s presidential elections. In October, Tajbakhsh was sentenced to 15 years in jail. Now friends, family and fellow academics are calling for his release. NPR’s Jacki Lyden has this profile.

SCOTT SIMON, host: We now turn to human rights in Iran, which has been holding thousands of people since the June 12th election, including an Iranian-American, a 47-year-old Columbia University scholar who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for espionage. This week, NPR’s Jacki Lyden spoke to people close to him.

JACKI LYDEN: Right now, Kian Tajbakhsh should be wrapping up his first term teaching at Columbia’s School for Architecture, Preservation and Planning. He was to begin earlier this year on the eighth of September. Instead, the school’s dean, Mark Wigley, spoke out about the imprisoned scholar.

Mr. MARK WIGLEY (Dean, Columbia University): In fact, he was due to start teaching this very day. It is therefore extremely painful to see him arrested and imprisoned.

LYDEN: It would’ve been a great reunion. Tajbakhsh earned his Ph.D. at Columbia more than 15 years ago, as his mother, Farideh Gueramy, told us on the phone from Tehran.

Ms. FARIDEH GUERAMY: One could say that he became a New Yorker. He would enjoy the culture there. He would enjoy Woody Allen movies and we would talk about all the different diversity, diverse group in New York City.

LYDEN: In 1998, Kian Tajbakhsh returned to Iran for the first time in 20 years. His mother had brought him to the U.S. when he was a four-year-old.

Ms. GUERAMY: My son, most of the time, would criticize me that I brought him out of Iran when he was young, four years old, and I deprived him from his language, his culture. And he always wanted to go back to Iran. He loved Iran, he loved the Persian language and he loved the poetry, he loved Persian music, and he had start actually teaching himself the language.

LYDEN: Kian Tajbakhsh moved back to Iran in October of 2001. He married and had a daughter. What he saw as an era of openness was in fact the beginning of the end of the kind of expanded civil society that Iranians had been enjoying in a reform era. After the 2005 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, liberty began to vanish. Paranoia crept in.

In 2007, Kian Tajbakhsh was arrested for the first time. At Evin Prison, he discovered he wasn’t the only Iranian-American scholar there. Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, was there too.

Ms. ESFANDIARI: They would take us together for interrogation. He usually would walk ahead of me and we were both blindfolded. So when the interrogator would refer to him as Mr. Doctor – (foreign language spoken) – so I knew that Kian was walking ahead of me down the stairs being blindfolded, and I would look down and see his slippers.

LYDEN: After her release, Haleh Esfandiari left Iran and wrote a book, “My Prison, My Home.” But Kian Tajbakhsh stayed on, writing about urban planning. Then came the presidential election of June 12th, 2009. It changed everything for Iranians. After the mass protest following the disputed election, thousands were rounded up and sent to prison.

Kian Tajbakhsh was arrested a second time, on July the 9th, and he found himself accused, says Haleh Esfandiari, by a government determined to cast him as a part of a velvet revolution.

Ms. ESFANDIARI: I know that they had convinced themselves that there is a plot through soft means to overthrow the regime. And the moment they saw the Green movement, members of the Green movement in the streets of Tehran, it reminded them of the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, the Rose Revolution in Georgia. And they thought that’s it, so therefore we have to once and for all try and stop it.

Little did they know that this was an indigenous movement. When the people came out into the street, all they wanted – they didn’t want an overthrow of the regime on June 13th or 14th. They wanted their votes to be counted. And then gradually, you know, it turned into this mass movement which they can’t even contain today.

LYDEN: Last summer, Tajbakhsh was put on trial along with a hundred others. He was sentenced in October to 15 years in prison, and in November, he was hit with still more charges. His lawyer, Massoud Shafie, spent an hour and a half with Kian at the prison on Thursday and has seen his file. He says it contains video clips of public demonstrations that Tajbakhsh allegedly emailed. The lawyer says that’s certainly not espionage and that the charges against his client are baseless.

Mr. MASSOUD SHAFIE (Attorney): (Through translator) I have reviewed the file in detail. I believe from a legal standpoint there’s no correlation between the evidence in his file and the conviction and sentencing.

LYDEN: Still, Kian’s mother, Farideh Gueramy, says she’s optimistic that this will be over soon. Yet another irony: Kian Tajbakhsh is affiliated with Columbia University, the very institution that took so much heat over inviting a controversial guest to speak there in 2007. That was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran.

Now, students and professors are focusing their petitions, speeches and videos on their colleague.

Mr. MARK WIGLEY: I therefore respectfully but passionately urge that Kian Tajbakhsh should be released and returned to his academic community here at Columbia University.

LYDEN: And they have vowed to keep his name before the public.

Jacki Lyden, NPR News.

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SIMON: To learn more…go to our Web site,

You’re listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.”

[Full transcript]

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