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IRAN: LAST TWO U.S.-IRANIAN DUAL NATIONALS RELEASED

Two U.S.-Iranians detained in Tehran's notorious Evin prison for more than four months have been released, report ARTICLE 19, Index on Censorship, Human Rights Watch and news reports.

U.S.-Iranian peace activist Ali Shakeri was released on 24 September on bail of 1 billion Rials (US$107,000) after being detained for more than four months on suspicion of harming national security, reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). It is unclear whether he has permission to leave the country.

Shakeri, a founding board member of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California, Irvine, was in Iran visiting his sick mother who died during his visit. He was jailed on 8 May while awaiting his flight to return to the U.S., and taken to Evin prison where he was placed in solitary confinement. The Iranian authorities have never made clear why he was detained.

Shakeri is the last U.S.-Iranian to be freed of four who were taken into custody or prevented from leaving Iran earlier this year. His release comes the day before Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad addresses the UN General Assembly in New York.

Kian Tajbakhsh was released on 19 September and reunited with his wife at home in Tehran, reports ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship. It is not yet known if he was released on bail or unconditionally.

Tajbakhsh, a social scientist and urban planner, has acted as a consultant for organisations including the Open Society Institute and the World Bank. He was arrested at his home on 11 May and was held incommunicado at Evin prison.

Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East programme at the Washington, D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was unexpectedly released on bail of 3 billion Rials (US $320,000) on 21 August shortly after passing her 100-day mark in prison. Both Tajbakhsh and Esfandiari were accused of endangering national security by encouraging a "velvet revolution" against the government.

Parnaz Azima, a reporter for Radio Farda, the Persian-language service run jointly by RFE/RL and Voice of America, was the only one of the four not jailed, but her passport was confiscated.

Human Rights Watch is also concerned that the government has denied basic due process rights to three Iranian student journalists who have been detained in Evin prison since May without access to lawyers. Majid Tavakoli, Ahmad Ghassaban and Ehsan Mansouri are accused of insulting state leaders in student publications, although they maintain the publications were forged and they had no role in producing them. Another journalism student and blogger, Soheil Assefi, has been held without charge since August.

The arrests have fuelled tensions between Washington and Tehran, already strained by Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology and by U.S. threats of a military attack. An open letter to the UN by Akbar Ganji, one of Iran's leading investigative journalists who was himself detained for nearly six years, has been endorsed by more than 300 prominent individuals, including U.S. political scientist Noam Chomsky and Orhan Pamuk, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature. The letter calls on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to reject a military attack on Iran, condemn the human rights violations of the Iranian state and release all political prisoners.

Visit these links:
- Human Rights Watch: http://tinyurl.com/yws84l
- ARTICLE 19 and Index on Censorship: http://tinyurl.com/yq7dhu
- "IFEX Communiqué" on Esfandiari and Azima: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/86186/
- "IFEX Communiqué" on U.S.-Iranian dual nationals:
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/83925
- Ganji's open letter to UN: http://tinyurl.com/ynrhpy
- RFE/RFL: http://tinyurl.com/382mde
- Free Haleh: http://www.freehaleh.org/
- Free Kian: http://www.freekian.org/
- Free Ali: http://www.freealishakeri.org/
(25 September 2007)

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