Rights activists and watchdog groups are marking the six-month anniversary of Iran's detention of internationally known HIV/AIDS researchers and educators Arash Alaei and Kamiar Alaei.
The two brothers have been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison
since late June 2008. According to their lawyer in Tehran, Masoud Shafie, the doctors were indicted this month on charges of communicating with an “enemy government.” They face from one to 10 years in prison, if convicted.
In an interview with Hannah Kaviani of RFE/RL's Radio Farda, Jonathan Hutson, a spokesman for the watchdog group Physicians For Human Rights, says the charges against the doctors are "illegitimate and politically motivated" and should be dropped immediately.
Brothers Kamiar (left) and Arash Alaei
Hutson says the two have already been detained two months longer than Iranian penal code allows. They are eligible for bail, Hutson says, but the judge has neither set bail nor scheduled a bail hearing.
In the past, Hutson says, Iran has released such detainees only after an outcry of public support from many nations.
"So to be clear," he told Radio Farda, "it's not just people in the United States but people from many countries who are urging Iran to release these doctors so that they can continue their life-saving work for the benefit of Iran as well as for the people of the world."
Physicians for Human Rights says the charge against the Alaeis is likely to have a "chilling effect" on the Iranian medical community’s ability to share its work and learn from global experts.
More than 3,100 people from 85 countries have signed an online petition demanding their release, which can be viewed at IranFreeTheDocs.org