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Scholar, detained for "endangering national security", released on bail

(Freedom House/IFEX) - The following is a 21 August 2007 Freedom House press release:

Freedom House Welcomes Release of Haleh Esfandiari and Calls on Iranian Government to Release other Iranian-Americans

August 21, 2007 - Freedom House welcomes the news that Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari was released today from detention by the Iranian government, but urges that the three other detained Iranian-Americans also be released and all four be allowed to leave the country.

Ms. Esfandiari was freed suddenly on bail today from Tehran's Evin prison, where she had been in jail since May on charges of endangering national security. Whether she can leave the country, however, is still unclear. Ms. Esfandiari, head of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars' Middle East Program in Washington, D.C., had been detained in Iran since early January.

"Freedom House congratulates Ms. Esfandiari on her release, and hopes that she will be able to return to her family in the U.S. without delay," said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. "We remain concerned, however, about the Iranian government's continued crackdown on civil society actors, and strongly urge that other prisoners currently detained on dubious charges also be released."

In addition to Ms. Esfandiari, several other Iranian-American citizens have recently been arrested by the Iranian government or prevented from leaving the country. They include Kian Tajbakhsh, a consultant for the Open Society Institute; Parnaz Azima, a correspondent for Radio Farda; and Ali Shakeri, founder of the Center for Citizens Peace Building at the University of California, Irvine.

Freedom House hopes that Ms. Esfandiari's release bodes well for the other individuals still in custody and that they also will be released and allowed to return to their homes.

Iran is ranked "Not Free" in Freedom House's 2007 edition of Freedom in the World, an annual survey of political rights and civil liberties worldwide. The country received a rating of 6 (on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the lowest) for political rights and a 6 for civil liberties, and was given a downward trend arrow in 2007, signaling negative trends that may result in even lower scores if expanded throughout the year.

Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expression of freedom around the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in Iran since 1972.

For more information on Iran, visit:

Freedom in the World 2007: Iran ( http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=22&year=2007&country=7196 )

Freedom of the Press 2007: Iran (English and Persian) ( http://www.freedomhouse.org/uploads/press_release/iran_FTP_07_engfarsi.pdf )

Press Release: Imprisoned Iranian-American Scholar Haleh Esfandiari Must be Freed, May 25, 2007 ( http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=70&release=509 )

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