Posts tagged: prison sentence

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

By , March 12, 2010 10:19 am

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]

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

By , February 10, 2010 1:35 pm

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]

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

By , January 13, 2010 3:11 pm

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.

(Soundbite of music)

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

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

[Full transcript]

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

By , January 6, 2010 7:04 am

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

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

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

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

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

[Link to full article]

What Iran Is Doing To Americans (Source: The Atlantic’s Daily Dish)

By , December 16, 2009 10:05 am

The Atlantic‘s high-profile blog has published an entry on Kian’s case:

“On the heels of news that the regime is set to try three American hikers for espionage, this news is particularly troubling:

The case against the Iranian-American social scientist Kian Tajbakhsh contains no evidence to support the allegations against him, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, following interviews with Masoud Shafie, Tajbakhsh’s lawyer. Tajbakhsh has been sentenced to a 15-year prison term for alleged espionage and actions against national security by a lower court and is currently in the appeals stage. The case has also been substantially invalidated by gross breaches of Iranian law and international standards for due process.  […] Espionage is closely defined under Iranian law, and guilt needs to be established by evidence that highly confidential documents were passed to foreign governments. There are no references to such documents in the file.

Tajbakhsh, a renowned scholar and urban planner, was the only US citizen included in the mass show trials that followed the post-election unrest. More information about the man here. A heartbreaking interview with his mother here.”

[Link to article]

[Link to related entry “The “Other” Prisoner” in the British blog Enduring America (0935 and 1835 GMT entries)]

Faculty petition for Tajbakhsh’s release (Source: Columbia Spectator)

Over 150 Columbia University students and professors have publicized a letter lobbying for the release of Kian, a current Columbia faculty member:

“…Tajbakhsh, who was supposed to teach at Columbia’s School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, was arrested this summer in Iran during the aftermath of the elections. He has also faced numerous charges of spying and being a threat to the national government.

“We hope to raise awareness about Kian’s case, and show our support for him as a member of our academic community and as a renowned scholar who has been falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned,” said a graduate student involved in the campaign who was granted anonymity for security reasons. “The charges are nonsense. Kian is a dedicated scholar, and someone who cares deeply about Iran. He has worked throughout his career to foster understanding between Iran and the rest of the world. I was looking forward to seeing him continue that work at Columbia this year, and it is terribly sad and frightening to know that he is in prison right now, instead of in a classroom here.”

“We, the undersigned faculty of Columbia University, call for the immediate and unconditional release of our colleague Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh,” the letter begins. It emphasizes his academic achievements and status as “an internationally recognized scholar who has taught at both American and Iranian universities.”

“Throughout his career, he has dedicated himself to fostering better understanding between the United States and Iran,” it states…

[Gary] Sick, a senior research scholar at the Middle East Institute of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, called the charges against Tajbakhsh “absurd … the best evidence of the underlying paranoia in the Iranian revolution government. They are persuaded that America is part of the revolution and trying to overthrow their government. They are looking for anybody that has associated with foreign government. … Some go to jail, others go to death,” he said.

“I have never been a CIA agent,” Sick added, stating that the accusation was invented by “an Iranian journalist or publisher.” He called it “disappointing” that there was “no effort to verify that it is true,” considering that “this is supposed to be a court case.”

“They can give you 15 years of jail for a rumor,” Sick said…”

[Link to article]

Interview: Imprisoned Iranian-American’s Mother Describes His Postelection Plight (Source: RFE/RL)

By , December 14, 2009 4:17 pm

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari has published an interview with Kian’s mother, which also aired in Persian on Radio Farda. BBC Persian and Voice of America have broadcast similar interviews in recent days with both Kian’s mother and his lawyer, Masoud Safie:

“Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh was arrested and put on trial in the course of the crackdown that followed mass protests over the results of Iran’s June presidential election…

RFE/RL: When was the last time you were able to visit your son, Kian Tajbakhsh, in prison?

Farideh Gerami: I visited my son at Evin prison on Thursday [December 10], along with his wife and daughter Hasti, who is about two [years] old.

RFE/RL: How is your son doing in prison and what conditions is he dealing with? He was among those arrested shortly after the disputed June 12 vote.

Gerami: [Kian Tajbaksh] was arrested three [weeks] after the election; it’s been five months that he’s being held in solitary confinement at Evin prison.

Spending five months in solitary confinement is extremely difficult. Psychologically he is strong because he is innocent and he hasn’t done anything wrong and he’s confident that his situation will be [resolved]; his case is transparent.

But physically he’s lost weight, and as a mother I can see that he’s [aged]. I feel he’s under pressure.

Of course, in order to comfort us, he always tells us that he’s doing fine, that we shouldn’t worry. But I’m really worried about him. You can imagine what happens when you hold anyone in solitary confinement for five months.

RFE/RL: What is your reaction to the 15-year prison sentence your son received after being charged with “soft overthrow” and similar charges. It’s one of the heaviest prison sentences issued for those arrested in the postelection crackdown.

Gerami: First of all, I have to say that when I returned to Iran two months ago [from New York] it was the birthday of my granddaughter, who is Kian’s only child. We all thought — we strongly believed — that my son would be released for the birthday of his daughter. Not only wasn’t he released, but the week after they issued the 15-year prison sentence not only us, I mean the family, but also [Kian] himself, we’re all astonished, we’re shocked, we don’t understand why such a sentence has been handed down.

He’s a scholar, he didn’t participate and wasn’t involved in the postelection events. He was under the watch of the Intelligence Ministry; all his actions were being monitored by the Intelligence Ministry. I would call him from New York and tell him not to go out, don’t take part in the unrest. He would tell me: “Mother, be sure, we’re fine, there isn’t any problem. My case is transparent and I’m being monitored.’

All the officials knew that he didn’t leave his house [during the postelection unrest]. Even if he had to go out to visit some friends, he would make sure to change his route to avoid [antigovernment] demonstrations. Therefore, when the sentence was issued we were all astonished; he was stunned. When [the authorities] informed him about the 15-year prison sentence, he was about to go crazy. He couldn’t believe something like this would happen.

We’re very, very concerned and I know for sure that my son is innocent; he knows he’s innocent, he hasn’t done anything [wrong]. He and his family were supposed to come to New York in early September and he was supposed to work at Columbia University, from which he graduated, and now we’re unfortunately stuck in this issue.

Political Case

RFE/RL: What do you think is the reason behind this heavy sentence? Kian Tajbakhsh was also jailed in [2007]. Why do you think he has faced so much pressure?

Gerami: This is my opinion, and it might not be correct, but I think it’s a political decision because my son is Iranian-American. He has dual nationality and this is a political [case].

RFE/RL: What do you think the United States can do in his case, the U.S. and the international community?

Gerami: So far, human rights groups in the U.S. and elsewhere — his friends and colleagues at Columbia University — have done what they could. They have sent letters to the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei]. They’ve sent letters to government officials. I myself have written to [Iranian President ] Mahmud Ahmadinejad and I was told that he received the letter.

[S]ome things have happened and I really hope that this issue will be resolved soon. My son’s case is now being reviewed by an appeals court. I really hope that the appeals court comes to the conclusion that the charges against him are baseless and he will be acquitted and allowed to come home as soon as possible.

I would just like to add that his daughter misses her father very much and is very impatient. We’re under a lot of pressure, a lot.”

[Link to article]
[Article in Persian]

Mother of Iranian-American scholar urges release (Source: Associated Press)

By , December 3, 2009 11:03 am

Kian’s mother pleads for her son’s release:

“WASHINGTON – The mother of an Iranian-American scholar facing espionage charges in Tehran is urging the Iranian government to release her son.

Speaking by phone from Tehran, Farideh Gueramy (FAH’-rih-day GUHR’-ah-mee) said Tuesday that the government has not clarified the legal grounds on which her son, Kian Tajbakhsh (KEE’-ahn TAZH’-bahdzh), has been charged. She says he is innocent.

“The problem is that we really don’t have any clear information,” Gueramy said.

Gueramy said that the family recently hired prominent Iranian lawyer, Masoud Shafie, to represent Tajbakhsh. Family members, including Tajbakhsh’s wife and two-year-old daughter, have been able to visit him about once a week in prison.

Tajbakhsh has already been sentenced to 15 years in prison on spying charges. But new espionage charges were brought this month raising the possibility of a harsher penalty.

Tajbakhsh was writing a book when he was arrested five months ago amid security forces’ crackdown following June’s disputed presidential election. He was among more than 100 people — most of them opposition activists and protesters — brought before a court in a mass trial criticized by the opposition and rights groups as ashow trial.

Last week, Tajbakhsh was brought before another branch of the Revolutionary Court that the elite Revolutionary Guard military corps has used to pursue dissidents, and he was charged with additional counts of espionage, the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said in a statement.

His family denies that he was involved in the postelection protests.

“He hasn’t done anything. He was at his home writing books,” Gueramy said. “I hope they realize that and let him go home to his two-year-old baby.”

[Link to article]

EU Presidency Statement on the case of Kian Tajbakhsh in Iran (Source: European Union)

By , December 2, 2009 10:23 am
The Presidency of the European Union has issued a statement about Kian’s case and the human rights situation in Iran:

“In a declaration of 23 October the European Union expressed concern at the sentencing of American-Iranian scholar Kian Tajbakhsh to 12-15 years in prison. Recent reports that Dr Tajbakhsh now faces additional charges of espionage are deeply worrying. Dr Tajbakhsh was arrested in connection with the popular demonstrations after the Presidential election on 12 June and has been detained in Iran without access to an independent lawyer since 9 July.

The Presidency of the European Union remains deeply concerned by the overall human rights situation in Iran, including the large number of cases similar to that of Dr Tajbakhsh which fall short of the international human rights standards regarding fair trial that Iran has committed itself to implement and which in many cases also violate Iranian constitutional and legal provisions. The Presidency reiterates the call from the European Union to the Iranian authorities to release journalists and individuals detained for political offences.

The Presidency urges the Islamic Republic of Iran to comply with all international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Iran – not least with relevant articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights regarding the right to a fair trial, which is also enshrined in the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

[Link to statement]

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

By , November 26, 2009 5:44 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Link to report]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran hopes President Obama can deliver on his promises (Source: The Hindu)

By , November 17, 2009 5:44 am

In an interview with Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki during a two-day visit to Delhi in which he said an agreement on the U.S.-led proposal for the exchange of nuclear fuel is possible, Siddharth Varadarajan of The Hindu newspaper raised the issue of Kian’s case:

Varadarajan: Do you feel President Obama is sincere when he says he wants to build new relations with Iran? Do you feel he represents a change from George W. Bush?

Mottaki: We consider the new administration different from the earlier one, which was a total warmonger administration that sullied the reputation of the U.S. The failure of the Bush policies has been confirmed by the American people, who showed this with their votes in the presidential election. Today, everyone around the world knows Obama is a chance for the U.S. And the experts there should not allow this opportunity to lead to failure. We want to believe what President Obama is saying. We hope he can operationalise what he says. To the extent to which President Obama is serious in his approach, Iran is ready to help…

Varadarajan: Among well-wishers of Iran in India, there is concern about the recent secret trial of the Iranian scholar, Kian Tajbakhsh, for his alleged involvement in the post-election protests. Now he has been sentenced to 12-15 years. We hope his case can be reviewed because he is a scholar and not someone involved in subversion.

Mottaki: All judicial verdicts can be reviewed and the opportunity of appeal is there for him. I am not aware of the details of his case. But our great effort is to see that those entering court can use all their rights, including appeal or using the capacity and potentiality of pardon.”

[Full Interview]

Call for Letters (Source: Scholars at Risk Network)

By , November 16, 2009 9:53 am

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

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

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

[Full appeal]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Full interview]

Cruel, Pointless Games (Source: New York Times)

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

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

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

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

[Full editorial]

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

By , November 4, 2009 5:21 am

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

“Your Excellency:

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

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

[Full ASA letter]

Grim fates for prisoners with ties to foreigners (Source: Los Angeles Times)

By , October 30, 2009 7:34 am

The news blog of the LA Times is updating the situation surrounding the cases of Kian, British embassy employee Hossein Rassam, and the three American hikers detained in Iran:

“No mercy for those accused of trying to topple the Islamic Republic.

Britain on Thursday protested a four-year jail sentence apparently imposed on one of its senior employees at its embassy in Tehran accused of spying and fomenting violence.

Hossein Rassam, 44, who served as chief political analyst at the British Embassy in Tehran was sentenced in a closed courtroom earlier this week, according to The Times of London

In other developments, an Iranian human rights group is claiming that judiciary officials in Iran refuse to let a lawyer file an appeal on behalf of Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian American scholar sentenced to 15 years in jail for allegedly stirring up trouble during recent protests…

The reports of Rassam’s sentence and the refusal of Tajbakhsh’s appeal surfaced as Britain, the U.S. and other major powers considered Iran’s reply to a proposed deal by the United Nations’ atomic watchdog intended to ease international tension over its controversial nuclear program…

Miliband urged Iranian authorities in his statement to overturn Rassam’s sentence, which he said constituted an “attack against the entire diplomatic community in Iran.”

He warned of gloomy consequences for Iran from countries other than Britain should the sentence not be overruled…

Among other charges, Tajbakhsh was found guilty of “acting against national security,” “spying and connections with foreign elements against the sacred system of the Islamic Republic” and “causing lack of public trust toward the official national organs and the ruling system by instigating rioting, mayhem, fear and terror within the society,” according to a statement issued by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

According to Iranian law Tajbakhsh has 20 days to appeal, but the rights group claims that Iranian judiciary officials have rejected multiple attempts by Tajbakhsh’s lawyer to file an appeal in what the group calls a “blatantly illegal act.”
When Tajbakhsh’s lawyer protested to judiciary officials, he was said to have been told: “It’s our law, so we can do what we want with it.”

The scholar has spent the months since his July arrest in Tehran’s Evin prison. He was previously kept in solitary confinement but was recently transferred to a villa on the prison compound, where he lived with a number of other high-profile detainees including a former vice president, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, according to the New York Times.

Tajbakhsh is now said to be back in solitary confinement.”

[Full article]

Jailed Iranian-American Is Said to Be in Solitary Confinement (Source: New York Times)

By , October 29, 2009 2:58 pm

The New York Times‘ Nazila Fathi spoke with family members for an update on Kian’s current situation:

“An Iranian-American scholar, Kian Tajbakhsh, who has been jailed in Iran since July and was sentenced last week to 15 years in prison, has been transferred back into solitary confinement, a family member said Wednesday.

He has been in the infamous Evin prison for months but, he told his wife, was moved early this month from solitary confinement to a “villa” on the prison grounds, living with four other high-profile inmates, according to the family member, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of complicating the case.

A few days ago Mr. Tajbakhsh was returned to solitary confinement, where prisoners often are forced to sleep on the floor.

Mr. Tajbakhsh, an urban planner with a doctorate from Columbia University, was arrested after protests broke out following the disputed June 12 presidential election.

The report of Mr. Tajbakhsh’s transfer came as the government appeared to continue its attempts to forestall protests scheduled for next Wednesday, the anniversary of the American Embassy takeover in Tehran. After arrests in the summer that stopped most large demonstrations, the opposition has been using occasions that the government supports to stage periodic rallies.

On Wednesday, state television reported that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, said questioning the results of the election was “the biggest crime.” It is unclear if that was anything more than a rhetorical flourish, but the timing suggests that it was a warning to protesters to stand down.

Last week, the wives and family members of a number of high-profile political detainees were arrested at a religious ceremony in Tehran, and 19 of them continue to be held, reformist Web sites have reported.

Mr. Tajbakhsh is one of more than 100 people being detained on election-related charges.

According to his family member, he told his wife that he was taken to solitary confinement on Sunday to do “some work.” In the past, prisoners have been kept in difficult conditions and asked to write confessions or to implicate fellow prisoners…”

[Full article]

Iran: Overturn Death Sentences, Other Unfair Convictions (Source: Human Rights Watch)

By , October 26, 2009 11:10 am

Human Rights Watch has issued a report calling on Iran’s Judiciary to overturn convictions that have been handed down by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran since the end of September against defendants accused of inciting post-election unrest including Kian:

“The Iranian Judiciary should immediately quash the convictions that have been handed down by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran since the end of September against defendants accused of inciting post-election unrest, Human Rights Watch said today. The convictions all stem from unfair trials in which the accused were denied access to lawyers.

The authorities repeatedly denied the prisoners’ requests for access to lawyers during pre-trial detention that in many cases lasted months, and their requests at their trials for lawyers of their choice were refused, Human Rights Watch said. The wife of one of the sentenced prisoners told Human Rights Watch that her husband was told he would not leave the prison any time soon if he did not agree to write a confession…

On October 20, the Revolutionary Court sentenced Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American scholar, to more than 12 years in prison. Authorities arrested Tajbakhsh, 47, on July 9 and later charged him with acting against national security for participating in Gulf 2000, an internet forum housed at Columbia University, and for working for the Open Society Institute. At Tajbakhsh’s trial, the appointed lawyer simply called the accusations against his client “untenable,” but did nothing else to challenge the accusations…

Tajbakhsh, Tabatabai, Aghaei, Bastani, and Hajjarian were put on trial on August 26. After being held in solitary confinement for weeks, denied access to their lawyers throughout their detention and trial, and permitted very limited access to their families, they testified against themselves and their colleagues.

Four post-election trials have been held at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. Authorities have allowed only reporters from pro-government media to cover the proceedings, which were presided over by Judge Abolqasem Salavati. Local and foreign reporters, families of detainees, and their lawyers were not permitted to attend the trials.

Under Iranian law, individuals may appeal their sentences, which must be upheld by both the appeals court and the Supreme Court before they are carried out…”

[Full report]

Inside Iran’s Campaign of Intimidation (Source: Daily Beast)

By , October 25, 2009 11:07 am

Gary Sick elaborates on his role in Kian’s case:

“Last week, an Iranian-American colleague of mine, Kian Tajbaksh, was sentenced in Tehran to 15 years in prison. The indictment included the charges that (1) he was in contact with me; (2) that he was part of the Gulf/2000 network that I manage; and (3) that I am an agent of the CIA…

There are a number of commentators on Iran, such as Reuel Gerecht, Graham Fuller, and Bruce Riedel, who indeed worked for the CIA. Although their political views disagree sharply, they always identify themselves as former CIA employees. I do not identify myself that way for the very simple reason that I never worked for the CIA.

The prosecutors charge that Kian was in touch with me. Right. We were both academics in New York, and we saw each other from time to time. However, I have gone back over the past 20 years with that in mind, and I am struck by something quite different. Over that period of time, I have known every Iranian ambassador to the United Nations and many members of the staff of the Iranian U.N. mission. I have spent much more time with them than with Kian.

More important, I have been in meetings with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on four different occasions over the past three years. I have spent at least nine hours with him, much more than I ever spent with Kian. In my last meeting with Mr. Ahmadinejad, I told him that if he were simply a lowly academic, instead of the president of Iran, he would be subject to arrest upon his return to Iran for meeting with the roomful of U.S. academics and think tank representatives that he had assembled at his hotel. He scoffed at the idea. Now one of my colleagues, a lowly Iranian-American professor who was about to take up a position at my university, is being condemned to 15 years in prison because, among other things, he had contact with me.

Iranian security officials are notably lacking in any sense of irony or humor. But I do wonder whether President Ahmadinejad is being considered for indictment because of his extensive contacts with me over the past four years.

The Gulf/2000 network is an Internet project that began 16 years ago to facilitate communication and information sharing among individuals who have a professional association with issues involving the Persian Gulf. It includes individuals of widely differing backgrounds and opinions, including both private citizens and government officials from countries around the world, including Iran. If any Iranian government official wishes to know about G2K, as we call it, he need only consult his colleagues who are members. G2K is routinely cited in international conferences in Tehran and elsewhere as a reliable source of informed commentary and factual information about issues involving the Persian Gulf. It is limited to specialists, but it is not a secret. It includes individuals of every possible political persuasion. And it is not engaged in overthrowing governments.

The indictment against Kian is in fact an indictment of the legal and security structure of the Iranian government. The charges are false, deliberately false. They consist of a series of political fabrications devoid of even the flimsiest effort to verify the truth.

These accusations cast shame on any institution that professes respect for justice and law. They substantiate the words of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, one the founders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, that this government is no longer either Islamic or a republic but merely the latest in the shabby succession of Middle Eastern military regimes. These charges remind us of the excesses of the Stalinist show trials and the abominations of the Chinese Red Guards—examples of revolutions that betrayed their own ideals.

This is not about Kian, and it is certainly not about me. It is about the abject failure of a ruling clique that has lost the confidence and support of its own people and must contrive scapegoats to excuse its own deficiencies.”

[Full article]

The New Hostage Crisis (Source: Foreign Policy)

By , October 24, 2009 9:44 am

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

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

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

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

Allow me to explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Full article]

More Iranian Injustice (Source: New York Times)

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]

Detente on ice (Source: Washington Post)

By , October 22, 2009 9:42 am

The editors of The Washington Post are calling on President Obama to “speak up” about Kian’s case and others like it:

“Does an Iran that sentences an innocent American scholar to prison really want ‘engagement’?

THERE WERE hints of progress in the nuclear talks with Iran on Wednesday as Iranian negotiators in Vienna accepted for consideration a plan under which Iran would ship most of its current stockpile of enriched uranium out of the country. But there also was a contrary signal from Tehran about the desire of its extremist regime for detente with the West. That was the reported sentencing of Iranian American academic Kian Tajbakhsh to 15 years in prison on a blatantly bogus charge of espionage.

Mr. Tajbakhsh, a well-known expert on urban planning, had no role in the protests that erupted after Iran’s fraudulent presidential election in June. He told friends that he was “keeping his head down.” In fact he was preparing to begin a teaching appointment at Columbia University this fall. But Mr. Tajbakhsh, who was educated in Britain and the United States but has lived in Iran since 1999, was a convenient pawn for the regime’s hard-liners. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard are trying to prove that the vast opposition movement against them is the product of a conspiracy by Western intelligence agencies and nongovernmental organizations such as the Open Society Institute, for which Mr. Tajbakhsh once worked as an adviser.

The arrest and trial of Mr. Tajbakhsh and more than 140 other people, including a number of opposition leaders, constitute a key element in the coup that the regime’s hard-liners have staged against more moderate elements — including those who genuinely favor rapprochement with the West. The tactical concessions that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s government is hinting at in Vienna complement the crackdown: By striking deals with Western leaders, the ruling clique seeks to legitimize itself at home. If it wins the domestic power struggle, there is no chance that it will retreat from its attempt to acquire nuclear weapons or to gain influence over the Middle East through terrorism and militant groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

The Obama administration and other Western governments say that they are cognizant of the danger of strengthening Mr. Ahmadinejad and his superior, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But they have been cautious about following the advice of Iranians such as Nobel Peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi, who is urging the administration to talk as much about the treatment of people such as Mr. Tajbakhsh as it does about Iran’s nuclear program. To be sure, White House and State Department spokesmen protested Mr. Tajbakhsh’s sentence; the White House statement said that he “embodies what is possible between our two countries.” We hope that President Obama himself will see fit to speak up about Mr. Tajbakhsh’s case and others like it. The fact that Tehran is imprisoning the very people capable of building bridges between Iran and the United States is a clear message to the president about how the regime regards his “engagement” policy.”

[Link to editorial]

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

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]

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

By , October 21, 2009 2:53 am

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

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

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

[Link to statement]

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