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ARTICLE 19 welcomes release of scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, calls for release of remaining Iranian-US citizen in detention

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is an ARTICLE 19 press release:

Iran: Release of Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh welcomed but release of Mr Ali Shakeri is urgently required

ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship welcome the release of Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh and call for the immediate release of Mr Ali Shakeri.

Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh was allowed to leave Evin Prison late in the evening of September 19. No details have been provided as to whether he is being released on bail or whether he has been released unconditionally, but he has been reunited with his wife at home in Tehran for the meantime.

Dr Kian Tajbakhsh is an internationally respected Iranian-American scholar, social scientist and urban planner. He has acted as a consultant for several Iranian government organisations, including the Municipalities Organisation, the Social Security Organisation, and the Ministry of the Interior, and with organisations such as the World Bank, the Open Society Institute, and the Netherlands Association of Municipalities. Dr Kian Tajbakhsh was arrested at his home in Tehran on 11 May 2007 and was held at Evin Prison in Tehran for five months, facing charges such as acting against Iran's national security.

Mr. Tajbakhsh is one of three Iranian-Americans who have been detained for several months in 2007 without any sufficient justification. Organisations around the world have continually called for the release of these dual citizens, who are all well known for their development and human rights work with credible and respected bodies. Dr Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Middle East Programme at the Woodrow Wilson Centre for Scholars in the United States, was unexpectedly released on bail of 3 billion rials (about $US 330,000) from Evin Prison on 22 August 2007 and allowed to leave the country.

While we greatly welcome the release of Dr Kian Tajbakhsh, we are deeply concerned by the ongoing detention of the remaining Iranian-US citizen on similarly speculative national security charges: Mr. Ali Shakeri, a founding board member of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California, Irvine. Mr. Shakeri traveled to Iran to visit his mother, who was ill and died during his visit. He is believed to have been detained on 8 May 2007 while awaiting his flight to return to the United States. Mr Shakeri was detained at the airport and taken to Evin Prison in Tehran where he remains in solitary confinement. We urgently call for his release in line with the release of Dr Tajbakhsh and Dr Esfandiari.

Mr Shakeri is involved in important peace building work and the Iranian authorities have not produced any evidence of his activities posing a threat to the national security of Iran. In a letter sent to the Iranian government authorities, the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding states "Ali's goal has been to build dialogue between the Iranian and American people. He loves them both. We respect and love Ali for his integrity, for his generous, friendly and cheerful disposition. These same character traits are evident every time Ali speaks about Iran, his native land. Ali Shakeri is a strong advocate for lifting all sanctions against the Republic of Iran. He is against any outside interference in Iran's internal affairs, and supports dialogue as the only constructive approach to Iranian-US relations."

Ali's family has suffered in silence for months. After four months had passed his family decided to speak out, fearing his case would be forgotten. Ali's family and friends are deeply concerned for his health and safety. They launched this website in the hope that it may speed his rightful release: http://www.freealishakeri.org/

ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.

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