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Rights Groups Urge Tehran To Release Scholars, Journalists

Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, who is defending two of those accused, joined the call (AFP) May 31, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Independent academic and human rights groups today are demanding the immediate release of two Iranian-American scholars jailed in Tehran on charges of spying.

The U.S.-based International Society for Iranian Studies has urged Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to release jailed scholars Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh. It also expresses concerns about possible torture of the scholars by their Iranian jailers to force them to make confessions.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Federation of Human Rights, Reporters Without Borders, and Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi also are calling on Tehran to release the scholars immediately.

Those groups also are urging Tehran to lift travel bans on two journalists with dual-citizenship -- Parnaz Azima, a U.S.-Iranian correspondent for U.S.-government funded Radio Farda, and Mehrnoush Solouki, a French-Iranian journalism student.

Ebadi, whose work for democracy and women and children's rights made her the first-ever Iranian recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, accused Iran's judiciary of "denying dual-nationals their basic rights" and disregarding "Iran's laws as well as international norms."

Ebadi and her Defenders of Human Rights Center are working on behalf of two of the defendants.

The groups also are seeking information about Ali Shakeri, an Iranian-American peace activist who went missing during a visit to Iran. The groups say Shakeri is thought to have been jailed by Iranian authorities.

All of the groups accuse Tehran of trying to spread fear among journalists, writers, scholars, and activists.

U.S.-Iranian Talks In Baghdad

U.S.-Iranian Talks In Baghdad

Some perspectives on the U.S.-Iranian talks of May 28, 2007, as expressed to Radio Farda.

Mehrdad Khansari, a former Iranian diplomat and analyst who is based in London: "Today the talks with the U.S. have begun but that does not mean that the talks will have reached a result. The Iranian and U.S. governments need to [tell] their audiences that they are not abstaining from talking to each other."

Tehran-based journalist Mashaollah Shamsolvaezin (pictured above): "There is a necessity that has forced the two countries to accept a series of new issues; these new issues are the talks that are going to begin between the two sides and I am hopeful about its future. The U.S. is facing serious [problems] regarding the situation in Iraq, from the other side is Iran facing some threats in the Middle East that come from insecurity in Iraq and also insecurity in Afghanistan. The seriousness of talks depend on the will of both sides and it seems that both sides are determined to seriously deal with issues, therefore I see a positive perspective for the Iran/U.S.talks."

Ted Galen Carpenter, a U.S. foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute in Washington (pictured above), says he believes the talks can help: "The United States is in a difficult position right now in that the current U.S policy in Iraq simply has not worked at all; and I think we are beginning to cast about for some alternatives and Iran can be at least modestly hopeful in that regard as long as we recognize that Iranian influence in Iraq is going to be inevitably much, much stronger than it was before."

Richard Perle, a former Pentagon official (pictured above) who lobbied forcefully for a U.S. invasion of Iraq: "I don't believe [talking to Iran will] help because I don't believe there is any interest on the part of the mullahs in Tehran in changing the behavior of the government of Iran, which has been -- and I think will continue to be -- to encourage violence and disorder in Iraq."