Iran confirms U.S.-based academic arrest

Iran confirmed that it has detained a prominent Iranian-American academic, and a newspaper accused her of spying for the United States and Israel and trying to start a revolution inside Iran.

Iran confirms U.S.-based academic arrest
Iran confirmed Sunday that it has detained a prominent Iranian-American academic, and a newspaper accused her of spying for the United States and Israel and trying to start a revolution inside Iran.

Esfandiari, director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington, went to Iran on a personal visit to see her ailing mother last year. She had been prohibited from leaving for four months, then was sent Tuesday to Iran's Evin prison after arriving at the Intelligence Ministry for questioning, the institute claimed.

Iran's Foreign Ministry confirmed her arrest for the first time Sunday, saying it was "based on law" and that the 67-year-old Esfandiari would be treated like other Iranian nationals. It gave no reason for the arrest.

The day before, however, the Iranian newspaper Kayhan accused Esfandiari of spying for the U.S. and Israel and of attempting to launch a revolution inside Iran.

"She has been one of the main elements of Mossad (the Israeli intelligence agency) in driving a velvet revolution strategy in Iran," the newspaper wrote. "She formed two networks, including Iranian activists, in the U.S and Dubai for toppling down (the Islamic government)."

Esfandiari's group and her husband strongly deny such activities, saying she was an advocate for diplomacy who often brought Iranians sympathetic to their government to talk to Washington officials.

In an e-mail sent to The Associated Press on Sunday, Shaul Bakhash, Esfandiari's husband and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, denied the accusations made in the article.

"These accusations are fantasies and are untrue. They are all the Kayhan writer's shameful fabrications ... It is regretful that Kayhan, one of Iran's two oldest newspapers still being published and with a long and distinguished history, should allow so much untruth to appear on its pages," wrote Bakhash.

Iranian security officials often warn that domestic critics or Iranians living abroad are being used by Iran's enemies to pressure the government. Their suspicions were further raised after Congress last year approved $85 million to promote democratic institutions in Iran.
Last Mod: 14 Mayıs 2007, 12:02
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