On the advance of expected protests in Iran on February 11, the United States White House and European Union have issued a statement calling on Iran to respect human rights:
“The United States and the European Union condemn the continuing human rights violations in Iran since the June 12 election. The large scale detentions and mass trials, the threatened execution of protestors, the intimidation of family members of those detained and the continuing denial to its citizens of the right to peaceful expression are contrary to human rights norms.
Our concerns are based on our commitment to universal respect for human rights. We are particularly concerned by the potential for further violence and repression during the coming days, especially around the anniversary of the Islamic Republic’s founding on 11 February. We call on the Government of Iran to live up to its international human rights obligations, to end its abuses against its own people, to hold accountable those who have committed the abuses and to release those who are exercising their rights.”
[Link to statement]
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]
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]