Posts tagged: Maziar Bahari

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 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]

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]

More Iranian Injustice (Source: New York Times)

By , October 24, 2009 9:37 am

The editors of The New York Times have joined the chorus of other major newspapers decrying Kian’s sentencing:

“The journalist Maziar Bahari joined his pregnant wife in London this week after being freed from an Iranian prison where he had been held for five months. That is welcome news, but it would be a mistake to think that the mullahs who run the government had been seized with humanitarian spirit. If anything, they seem more determined to shift the blame for the unrest that followed the fraudulent June 12 election to America and other “foreigners.”

The Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planner with a doctorate from Columbia University, was arrested in July. He was prosecuted with more than 100 other defendants in show trials after the election sparked the biggest challenge to the Islamic republic since the 1979 revolution.

An Iranian court on Sunday convicted him of fomenting unrest against the government and sentenced him to 15 years in prison… We hope this outrageous verdict is reversed on appeal. Indeed, Tehran may be using him as a pawn for negotiations with the United States on its nuclear program. But the new judiciary chief, Sadeq Larijani, will fail if he cannot direct a judiciary that is fair and consistent.

The mullahs are twisting themselves into knots trying to prove that outside forces are at work when they are facing homegrown outrage over their increasingly autocratic state. They also think they can solve the crisis with force, despite the extent of internal dissent and the refusal of many elites to condone the crackdown.

On Friday, a leading opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, was attacked at a media fair. One day earlier, authorities stormed a prayer service at a private home and arrested 60 reformists. Many Iranians detained after the election protests linger in prison without charges. Two weeks ago, authorities sentenced four to death sentences.

Since July 31, Iran has been holding three American hikers who were seized along the Iran-Iraq border. Robert Levinson, a former F.B.I. agent has been missing since 2007. These victims of Iran’s autocratic leaders must be released. Iran may sit at the negotiating table with the United States and other world powers, but it will never earn the respect it craves if it continues these kinds of human rights abuses.”

[Link to editorial]

Iranian-American Stunned by Sentence (Source: New York Times)

By , October 22, 2009 9:34 am

Nazila Fathi spoke with Kian’s family about his circumstances in prison, general well-being and reaction to his sentencing:

“When Kian Tajbakhsh went before a judge in Tehran on Sunday he had several reasons to think he would be released. Instead, to his utter shock, he was given a 15-year prison term.

Since being detained in July, Mr. Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar, had been permitted two home visits, the last on Oct. 15, when he appeared hopeful that he would be released soon, a family member said. He said he had been transferred recently to a villa on the compound of the Evin prison, a sign of leniency that he thought suggested his release was imminent.

Mr. Tajbakhsh, an urban planner with a doctorate from Columbia University, was arrested in protests that rocked Iran after the election on June 12, in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed an overwhelming victory.

Mr. Tajbakhsh told his wife about the sentence on Monday in a telephone call, said the family member, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of complicating Mr. Tajbakhsh’s case.

He was sentenced on charges of working as a consultant for the Open Society Institute, a democracy-building group, which the indictment identified as a C.I.A. satellite institution. He was also charged with belonging to the Gulf/2000 Project, an e-mail list of scholars, journalists, diplomats and businessmen with interests in the Persian Gulf region. He has the right to appeal.

But the harsh sentence surprised Mr. Tajbakhsh, the relative said. In the past two weeks he had been moved from solitary confinement to the villa, and the depression and insomnia that he had suffered while in prison had improved significantly. The family member said Mr. Tajbakhsh’s morale was noticeably higher in the recent visit than during his first one in late September, when he was still in solitary confinement and subjected to long hours of interrogation.

At that point, “he was in an awful state and said he had to take tranquilizers to sleep,” the family member said.

“But he was much happier this time and was excited that he had a shower and could sleep on a bed for the first time in months,” the relative said. “He was very hopeful.”

Mr. Tajbakhsh shares the villa with four other high-profile prisoners, among them a former vice president, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, and Abdullah Ramezanzadeh, who was the government spokesman under President Mohammad Khatami.

On Saturday the authorities released another person with dual citizenship, Maziar Bahari, a Newsweek reporter and an independent filmmaker. But some experts believe the government wanted Mr. Tajbakhsh as a bargaining chip.

“The prison term seems to be a message to the American administration, saying that we can keep him if we want to,” said Mohsen Sazegara, the director of the Washington-based Research Institute for Contemporary Iran and an opposition figure who was jailed in Iran in 2003. “They want to use him in negotiations with the American administration.”

[Link to article]

Kian Tajbakhsh, Iranian-American Academic, Gets 12 Years for Election Unrest (Source: Associated Press)

By , October 20, 2009 12:18 pm

Media outlets around the world are reporting the shocking and disturbing news that Kian has been issued to a long prison sentence by a revolutionary court:

“TEHRAN, Iran — Iran ignored appeals by Hillary Rodham Clinton and even rock star Sting and sentenced an Iranian-American academic to 12 years in prison Tuesday for his alleged role in anti-government protests after the country’s disputed presidential election.

The sentence for Kian Tajbakhsh was the longest prison term yet in a mass trial of more than 100 opposition figures, activists and journalists in the postelection turmoil.

At the same time, Iran allowed another defendant to leave the country – Canadian-Iranian Maziar Bahari, a Newsweek journalist arrested in the same crackdown who had been freed on bail over the weekend.

Bahari joined his British wife, who is in the last days of her pregnancy, in London, Newsweek said on its Web site Tuesday. It was the first word that Bahari had left Iran…

Bahari’s release could be a concession by Iran to international pressure. But Tajbakhsh’s heavy sentence signaled that Tehran was sticking to a tough line overall on the political unrest. It came amid calls in Iran for the prosecution of the most senior opposition figure and suggestions that three American hikers, detained after accidentally crossing into Iran, could face charges.

Tajbakhsh, a social scientist and urban planner, was arrested by security forces at his Tehran home July 9 – the only American detained in the crackdown that crushed giant street protests by hundreds of thousands of people after the June 12 election. The opposition claims the vote was rigged in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ian C. Kelly said Tajbakhsh should be released immediately, saying he poses no threat to the Iranian government or its national security.

Washington has repeatedly denounced his arrest. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed in August for his release, and he was specially named in a call by the British rock star Sting to free all political prisoners in Iran.

“Family and friends of Iranian-American detainee Kian Tajbakhsh are shocked and outraged by the news,” said Pam Kilpadi, a friend of Tajbakhsh who is working on a book with him. She described the charges as “baffling.”

“As an independent scholar Kian is neither a member of the Iranian reformist movement nor in contact with any foreign headquarters inside or outside Iran, and has had no involvement in pre- or postelection unrest,” said Kilpadi, a doctoral researcher at Britain’s University of Bristol currently based in Cambridge, Mass.

Tajbakhsh’s lawyer, Houshang Azhari, told the official IRNA news agency that he would appeal the conviction on charges of “acting against national security.” He said the law prohibited him from divulging the full details of the sentence and would only say it was “more than 12 years.”

The appeal could open an avenue for freeing Tajbakhsh. An Iranian-American journalist who was arrested this year, Roxana Saberi, was convicted of espionage but freed on appeal in what was widely seen as a political decision to defuse tensions with Washington.

Tajbakhsh, 47, had been targeted by Iranian authorities before. In 2007, he was arrested on similar charges while working for the Open Society Institution, a pro-democracy organization run by American philanthropist George Soros – a figure Iran has often cited as part of the anti-government plot. He denied the charges and was released after four months in prison.

Afterward, Tajbakhsh left the Open Society Institution and remained with his family in Iran, working on a book.

Weeks after his arrest in July, Tajbakhsh appeared in the mass trial of opposition figures. Many of the defendants delivered courtroom confessions to a plot to topple the government – admissions that opposition groups said were forced from them.

At his turn to speak during an Aug. 25 court session, Tajbakhsh appeared to try to speak only vaguely about foreign interference in Iran, saying that “undeniably this was a goal of the U.S. and European countries to bring change inside Iran” – although he said he had no direct knowledge of any plot.

The court has issued convictions against a few Iranian opposition figures, sentencing them to five or six years – all far shorter than Tajbakhsh’s, although three others accused of belonging to what Iran considers terrorist groups were sentenced to death.

“It’s obviously completely politically motivated,” said Arien Mack, a psychology professor at The New School in New York City, where Tajbakhsh taught urban policy until 2001. She said that since his 2007 arrest, Tajbakhsh had focused on his academic work, avoiding politics.

“As far as I know, he did not even vote in the last election” in Iran, she said…”

[Full article]

An Alternative Nobel (Source: Wall Street Journal);
Our Laureate: Neda of Iran (Source: Washington Post)
How to Engage Iran (Source: Washington Post)

By , October 13, 2009 11:45 am

The editors of major U.S. newspapers are naming Iranian dissidents as their preferred choice for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize and highlighting the tension between diplomacy and human rights advocacy currently impacting Kian and other Iranian political prisoners:

“Suppose this year’s Nobel Peace Prize had gone to the scores of Iranians now on trial for having protested the fraudulent re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last June. For the three defendants who were sentenced to death over the weekend, a Nobel might have made all the difference in the nick of time. At a minimum, it could have validated their struggle.

…the Obama Administration has downplayed human rights in Iran as it pursues a negotiated nuclear settlement with the Ahmadinejad government. Without explanation, the State Department this month pulled funding for the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, a New Haven, Connecticut outfit that has been investigating the plight of those Iranians now in the dock, including Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh and Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari.

In his Rose Garden remarks about the Nobel, President Obama spoke about “the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard even in the face of beatings and bullets.” The elliptical reference is almost certainly to 27-year old Neda Agha-Sultan, whose murder last June by one of Ahmadinejad’s goon squads was captured on a video seen around the world. We hope the President keeps in mind that the same people whose good faith he now seeks in negotiations were her killers.”

[Full editorial]


“IT’S AN ODD Nobel Peace Prize that almost makes you embarrassed for the honoree. In blessing President Obama, the Nobel Committee intended to boost what it called his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” A more suitable time for the prize would have been after those efforts had borne some fruit…

The Nobel Committee’s decision is especially puzzling given that a better alternative was readily apparent. This year, hundreds of thousands of ordinary people in Iran braved ferocious official violence to demand their right to vote and to speak freely. Dozens were killed, thousands imprisoned. One of those killed was a young woman named Neda Agha-Soltan; her shooting by thugs working for the Islamist theocracy, captured on video, moved the world. A posthumous award for Neda, as the avatar of a democratic movement in Iran, would have recognized the sacrifices that movement has made and encouraged its struggle in a dark hour. Democracy in Iran would not only set a people free, it would also dramatically improve the chances for world peace, since the regime that murdered her is pursuing nuclear weapons in defiance of the international community.

Announcing Friday that he would accept the award, Mr. Obama graciously offered to share it with “the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard even in the face of beatings and bullets.” But the mere fact that he avoided mentioning either Neda’s name or her country, presumably out of consideration for the Iranian regime with which he is attempting to negotiate, showed the tension that sometimes exists between “diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” on the one hand, and advocacy of human rights on the other. The Nobel Committee could have spared Mr. Obama this dilemma if it had given Neda the award instead of him.”

[Full editorial]


“SHIRIN EBADI, a 62-year-old Iranian lawyer who won the Nobel Peace Prize six years ago, is generally cautious and measured in her speech. She is a human rights lawyer who says that she does not involve herself in politics. She says that it’s not her job to favor one party over another, as long as the government respects people’s right to express themselves. So it was startling this week to hear Ms. Ebadi say bluntly that the Obama administration has gotten some things backward when it comes to Iran. It’s not that engaging with the government is a mistake, she said during a visit to The Post. But paying so much more attention to Iran’s nuclear ambitions than to its trampling of democracy and freedom is a mistake both tactical and moral…”

[Full editorial]

U.S. Presses Tehran to Free Two Detainees (Source: Wall Street Journal)

By , October 9, 2009 10:52 am

The Wall Street Journal has published a half-page feature by Farnaz Fassihi highlighting the cases of Kian and Maziar:

“The United States is asking that Iran immediately release two jailed foreign nationals even as it pursues talks over Tehran’s nuclear program, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

Families, colleagues and friends of the detainees have collected petitions signed by prominent figures and written letters to public officials as part of their far-reaching efforts to win the release of American-Iranian scholar Kian Tajbakhsh and Canadian-Iranian Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari, who have been held captive by Iran for roughly three months.
The State Department says it pressed Iran on its human-rights record when representatives of the two countries sat at the negotiating table to discuss Iran’s nuclear program in Geneva last week. So far, Iran hasn’t taken any action.

The U.S. didn’t make the release of Mr. Tajbakhsh, 47 years old, and Mr. Bahari, 42, a condition for further negotiations on the nuclear matter. The U.S. used the opportunity of the face-to-face high-level meeting with Iran to appeal for their release on humanitarian grounds and as a measure of goodwill, the people familiar with the talks say.

Supporters of the two men hope the backdrop of the talks will aid their cause. “If Iran is trying to build trust with the rest of the world one good way to do it would be to release people like Maziar and Kian,” said Newsweek’s foreign editor Nisid Hajari.

The two men are the only foreign nationals arrested in relation to the recent unrest surrounding controversial presidential elections in June. Neither has a political affiliation in Iran.

Three young Americans have been detained since the end of July by Iran for illegally crossing the Iranian border during a hike in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. Iran allowed a representative of the Swiss Embassy to meet with the hikers last week.
Mr. Tajbakhsh and Mr. Bahari were arrested soon after the elections, on different days but under similar circumstances. Intelligence officials raided their homes in the middle of the night, confiscated their computers, documents and passports. The two men were taken to the notorious Evin prison, to the ward controlled by the intelligence unit of the Revolutionary Guards. They have had no access to legal counsel, and haven’t been charged or sentenced, according to their families.

Prisoners who have been released on bail recently from the same ward say they were blindfolded most of the day, beaten, psychologically tortured and interrogated for up to 12 hours at a time, often in the middle of the night.

Mr. Tajbakhsh and Mr. Bahari looked visibly thinner and haggard when they appeared in televised mass trials in August next to prominent opposition figures. Each delivered a confession detailing how, in their respective roles as academic and journalist, they had unwittingly participated in a plot by the West for a so-called soft revolution against Iran’s regime.

The court appearance was the first time their families had seen them since the arrests. Families and colleagues dismiss the confessions and say they were coerced.

Mr. Tajbakhsh’s two-year-old daughter, Hasti, ran to the television and kissed the screen as it showed him mumbling his confession, and his wife sobbed, according to family members. Mr. Tajbakhsh and his family were planning to move this fall from Tehran to New York, where he was scheduled to start teaching at Columbia University.

In London, Mr. Bahari’s wife, Paola Gourley, is eight months pregnant with the couple’s first child. She says her husband’s hollow eyes in court shocked her.

“Understanding the reality of where he is and what he is going through was heartbreaking,” says Ms. Gourley, a British lawyer. Since his court appearance, she says she has suffered serious pregnancy complications threatening her life and the baby’s and has been hospitalized twice. She says doctors tell her the problems are related to too much stress.

Messrs. Bahari and Tajbakhsh have recently been allowed occasional brief phone calls and visits with their families supervised by a prison guard.

Mr. Tajbakhsh holds a Ph.D. in urban planning from Columbia University, and grew up in London and New York. In 2001, Mr. Tajbakhsh returned to Iran to research a project about Iran’s government institutions. Mr. Tajbakhsh met and married his wife Bahar and settled in Tehran. He was arrested and imprisoned for four months in 2007.

Mr. Bahari, who studied in Canada, divides his time between London and Tehran. He has been Newsweek’s Iran correspondent since 1998 and has made a series of award-winning documentary films. Mr. Bahari was a finalist for the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for Concord in 2009, for his coverage of Iran.

[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]

Iranian Diaspora Heads for New York to Confront Ahmadinejad (Source: New York Times)

By , September 23, 2009 2:46 am

Nazila Fathi and Robert Mackey have written about Kian’s plight in The New York Times news blog:

“When Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rises to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, protesters who claim that he holds office only because of a rigged election plan to gather in large numbers outside the building…

The detainees who were arrested after the election have been hauled into court for televised mass trials, charged with plotting a “velvet revolution” to overthrow the regime. There have been no indications that they will be released soon.

Some of those still held, like Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar, and Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian filmmaker and journalist who reports for Newsweek, were apparently not involved in political activities.

Mr. Tajbakhsh, who was also arrested for three months in 2007, has been jailed since July 9. No formal charges have been brought against him, but a family member who spoke on condition of anonymity said that he has been kept in solitary confinement under watch by members of the Revolutionary Guards. When Mr. Tajbakhsh, looking frail and passive, appeared on state-run television during a mass trial of dissidents in late August, his two-year old daughter, Hasti, ran to kiss his image on the screen. His appearance led family members to fear that he is being drugged.

At least one political prisoner and the daughter of another high-profile prisoner, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a former vice president, have confirmed that the political prisoners have been forced to take drugs — blue pills, they reported, that are said to make them less resistant and more cooperative with their interrogators…”

[Full article]

Iran’s Captives (Source: New York Times)

By , September 20, 2009 5:25 am

The editors of The New York Times are calling on Iran to release the five American citizens it has “unjustly and cruelly imprisoned”:

“Iranian diplomats are scheduled to sit down next month with diplomats from the United States and the other major powers. There is a lot to talk about, starting with Iran’s illicit nuclear program. Tehran is clearly eager to use the meeting to assert its rising influence and claim the respect it insists it has been too long denied.

The latter argument will be a tough sell, but if Iran’s leaders are truly serious about trying to change international and American opinion, they will have to start behaving like a responsible government. One immediate step they can take is to release the five American citizens they have unjustly and cruelly imprisoned.

Since July 31, Iran has been holding three American hikers who were seized along the Iran-Iraq border. Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal and Sarah Shourd were hiking in the Kurdish region of Iraq and their relatives concede that they may have accidentally crossed into Iran. But there can be no justification for their imprisonment.

Iran must release Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar… And it must free Robert Levinson, a former F.B.I. agent missing since 2007. It is also holding Maziar Bahari, the Newsweek correspondent and Canadian documentary filmmaker. Justice demands that he be released.

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, where he, too, will inevitably demand more respect for his country. Amid the wreckage of rigged presidential elections, the brutal crackdown on critics and Mr. Ahmadinejad’s repeated Holocaust denials, Iran needs to free these prisoners and allow the world some hope.”

[The full editorial incorrectly reports that authorities have not confirmed Kian’s arrest]:

A Test for Iran (Source: Washington Post)

By , September 16, 2009 3:50 pm

An op-ed published by the editors of The Washington Post today calls on the United States to demand that Iran release Kian, Maziar Bahari and other Western citizens within the context of official US-Iran engagement:

“THE OBAMA administration has chosen to support international negotiations with Iran next month in spite of Tehran’s declarations that it will not discuss its nuclear program. The White House says the United States and its five partners will insist on raising the U.N. Security Council’s demand for a suspension of Iranian uranium enrichment. Yet if engagement with Iran is to have any hope of success, at least one other item should be on the agenda: the government’s recent repression of domestic opposition, and in particular its prosecution of Western citizens.

Since August the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been staging show trials of some 140 politicians, civil society activists and journalists accused of trying to carry out a Western-orchestrated “color revolution” in Iran. The crudely staged cases are the latest phase in a coup by extremists, led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, against more moderate factions that represent the majority of the country — and that include the proponents of a genuine rapprochement between Iran and the West. By opening talks with the Ahmadinejad clique, the international alliance risks strengthening the extremists’ hand in a fateful power struggle. If they win, the negotiations are doomed.

One way to avoid this pitfall is for the United States to insist on discussing the human rights issues raised by the show trials. The obvious lack of due process for leading regime opponents contravenes international human rights standards that Iran claims to respect. The cases of torture and rape of prisoners courageously documented by opposition presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi should be as worthy of discussion as the non-nuclear subjects that Iran wants to bring up.

The United States and several other countries also have a direct interest in the cases of people with dual citizenship and embassy employees who have been swept up in the purge. These journalists, scholars and functionaries were not part of the opposition movement, but the regime is using them to bolster its claims that all of the opposition is part of a foreign conspiracy. Two cases that stand out are those of Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian American scholar, and Maziar Bahari, a Canadian American filmmaker and accredited correspondent in Iran for Newsweek magazine, which is published by The Washington Post Co.

Mr. Bahari was arrested at his mother’s home on June 21; Mr. Tajbakhsh was picked up July 9. Both have been denied access to consular officials or their own lawyers. At a ghastly “press conference” after his appearance at his trial Aug. 1, Mr. Bahari delivered statements echoing the regime’s propaganda about Western plots and the supposed role of journalists in them. Mr. Tajbakhsh, who was due to begin teaching at Columbia University this month, played no role in the opposition protests yet has been charged with being one of their planners.

There is an easy way for the Obama administration to test Iran’s seriousness about negotiations: It should demand that Mr. Bahari, Mr. Tajbakhsh, and other Western citizens being cruelly used as pawns in the regime’s domestic repression be immediately released and allowed to leave the country. Whether or not Mr. Ahmadinejad makes that simple concession will reveal whether the regime has any intention of mending relations with the United States.”

[Link to editorial]

A Plea From a Senator to Free Prisoners in Iran (Source: New York Times)

By , September 13, 2009 4:27 pm

U.S. Senator (D-Florida) Bill Nelson has written to the editors of The New York Times urging them not to forget to highlight the cases of American citizens imprisoned in Iran:

Free Maziar Bahari“(editorial, Sept. 9) rightly calls for an end to the unjust imprisonment of Maziar Bahari, the Canadian documentary filmmaker and Newsweek correspondent held since June by the Iranian authorities in their infamous Evin Prison…

Meanwhile, an Iranian-American scholar, Kian Tajbakhsh, remains imprisoned and has been denied consular access.

You are to be commended for calling on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to free Mr. Bahari. I would also say to Mr. Ahmadinejad: put an end to the suffering of the Levinsons, Bauers, Shourds, Fattals and Tajbakhshes.”

[Full letter]

Khamenei Issues Warning to Iranian Opposition (Source: New York Times)

By , September 12, 2009 4:20 pm

Nazila Fathi of The New York Times, reporting on the Friday prayers speech delivered by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at Tehran University, noted that:

“…Mr. Khamenei’s speech is a final warning to political leaders,” said one analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “He told the reformers, who claim they are loyal to the values of Khomeini, that he is also following him and would confront them in the same way that Khomeini confronted his opponents.”

Mr. Khamenei and his supporters have tried to portray the opposition and the protests as a plot by foreign enemies to stage a “velvet revolution” against the regime. More than a hundred former officials, activists and journalists are still in detention. Among them is an Iranian-American scholar, Kian Tajbakhsh, and an Iranian-Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari.

Meanwhile, Mr. Karroubi lashed out at the raid on his office and the arrest of his aides in a letter to the head of the judiciary late Thursday and said he would not be intimidated, his Web site Etemad Melli reported. “I am even more persistent than before now after the arrests and the intimidations,” he said, referring to his efforts to publicize charges of torture and rape…

Ayatollah Khamenei also stressed that Iran was not going to compromise over its nuclear program, adding the regime would not show weakness or retreat from what is considers its rights…”

[Full article]

U.N. experts say Iran tortured to extract confessions

By , August 13, 2009 4:31 am

As reported in this CNN article, three independent United Nations human rights experts have accused Iran of torturing confessions from detainees charged with fomenting political unrest. The article mentions Kian as follows:

“Iran is conducting a mass trial of about 100 Iranian defendants in its Revolutionary Court. Reformist politicians, lawyers and journalists are among those accused of protesting in an attempt to overturn government leadership.

Among the defendants are Seyyed Mohammad Abtahi, a former Iranian vice president; Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian reporter for Newsweek magazine; and Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar.”

[Full article]

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Trial of protesters seems only to hurt Iran, analysts say
(Source: LA Times)

By , August 9, 2009 12:40 pm

This LA Times article mentions Kian in the context of the second round of show trials in Iran on Saturday:

“…By provocatively showcasing confessions by the French citizen, Iranian American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh and Iranian Canadian Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, as well as by British and French embassy staffers, the trials will almost certainly further Iran’s diplomatic isolation, highlight its sometimes erratic political system and reduce its leverage just as the West and Tehran are considering talks on resolving differences over the Iranian nuclear program…”

[Full article: Trial of protesters seems only to hurt Iran, analysts say]

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With Iran Blaming West, Dual Citizens are Targets
(Source: Washington Post)

By , August 8, 2009 12:46 pm

Washington Post reporter Tara Bahrampour has written this piece about the cases of Kian and Canadian Iranian Maziar Bahari:

“They are trying to make a case to their own constituents, and to international constituents, that what has taken place has a foreign element behind it, so dual nationals, people with ties to Western NGOs, are targets,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a friend of Tajbakhsh. “I don’t believe for a second that they genuinely perceive Kian to be a threat to national security.”…

Friends said he [Kian] had purposely avoided the election-related turmoil, even abstaining from voting. “He felt confident there was no rationale for him to be imprisoned,” Sadjadpour said. Two days after the vote, Tajbakhsh wrote to him in an e-mail: “I’m keeping my head down. I have nothing journalistic to add to all the reports that are here.”…

“I can guess that they were digging into the velvet revolution file, and they needed a credible voice to talk about this velvet revolution, and the only person who was there was Kian,” [Haleh Esfandiari] said. “I’ve heard they have rooms full of charts about universities, think tanks, NGOs and are then drawing parallels from Georgia, Ukraine and so on. And then they go after truly, truly innocent people like Kian.”…

[Full article: With Iran Blaming West, Dual Citizens are Targets]

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Clinton says trial show Iran is ‘afraid of its own people’
(Source: CNN)

By , August 6, 2009 12:34 pm

During an official visit to Kenya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented on the cases of Kian and Canadian Iranian Maziar Bahari:

…”It is a show trial, there’s no doubt about it,” Clinton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in a wide-ranging interview to be broadcast on his “GPS” program Sunday.

“It demonstrates I think better than any of us could ever say that this Iranian leadership is afraid of their own people, and afraid of the truth and the facts coming out.”…

Those on trial include Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, who has dual citizenship in Iran and Canada, and Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar. The trial, which began over the weekend, is scheduled to resume Saturday, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency.

This week, the State Department issued a statement expressing deep concern for Tajbakhsh…”

[Full article Clinton says trial show Iran is ‘afraid of its own people’]

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Article on the show trial of some 100 political prisoners including Kian Tajbakhsh (Source: Associated Press)

By , August 2, 2009 7:03 am

The Associated Press has published a story about the show trial in Iran featuring some 100 political prisoners including Kian. The article notes the following about Kian specifically (as reprinted here in the New York Times):

“… Among the others on trial Saturday were two foreign citizens — Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh and Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, who holds Iranian and Canadian citizenship

Pamela Kilpadi, a researcher who is working on a book with Tajbakhsh, said: ”I know for a fact that Kian played absolutely no role in post-election incidents in Iran. He even said he would not vote in the elections. As an independent academic Kian has always sought political neutrality.”

”These current statements have been forced under duress from someone being held in an undisclosed location without access to a lawyer, family or friends, in violation of the human rights treaties to which Iran is supposedly a signatory,” Kilpadi told the AP by e-mail. ”This is a disgrace to humanity.”

There was no information on when the trial would end or when a verdict could be expected…

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140 prisoners from Iran election crackdown freed
(Source: Associated Press)

By , July 28, 2009 7:14 pm

This Associated Press article reports on the release of 140 prisoners and fate of the remaining prisoners including Kian:

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly called for detainees’ release, saying the U.S. was “deeply concerned about all these arbitrary arrests, detentions and harassments that have taken place in Iran, as well as the persistent lack of due process.” He also expressed concern over three detained foreign citizens — Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, who holds Iranian and Canadian citizenship, and a French scholar, Clotilde Reiss.

The head of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, promised on Monday that the public prosecutor would review the situation of all the postelection detainees within a week and decide whether to release or bring them to trial, the state news agency IRNA reported. State television said Tuesday that Ahmadinejad urged Shahroudi to accelerate making decision on the fate of detainees.

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U.S. Government very concerned about some detentions of foreign citizens, urges Iran to resolve all outstanding foreign national cases

US State Department press briefing, July 28th

QUESTION: Just a question on Iran. I’m sure you’ve seen the reports that Supreme Leader Khamenei has ordered a detention center closed. Is this a good thing?

MR. KELLY: I’ve only seen reports of it, so it’s hard for me to – or hard for us at the State Department to comment on something that we’ve only seen reports of. I mean, what I will say is, of course, that we’re deeply concerned about all these arbitrary arrests, detentions, and harassments that are – that have taken place in Iran, as well as the persistent lack of due process.

All along, we’ve called upon Iran’s leadership to release all of those who have been detained unjustly, and so allow them to be reunited with their families. In addition, we’re very concerned about some detentions of foreign citizens, including an American scholar that we’ve talked about here before, Kian Tajbakhsh, Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, and there’s a French scholar, Clotilde Reiss.

They have been detained, we think, without any grounds. And we find this unacceptable and we’re urging Iran to resolve all outstanding foreign national cases…

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