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Radio Farda Broadcaster Allowed To Leave Iran

Parnaz Azima (RFE/RL) September 4, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- An Iranian-American broadcaster banned from leaving Iran for the past seven months has been given permission to leave the country.

Parnaz Azima collected her passport from authorities today and told Radio Farda she would leave Iran in the near future.

Iranian officials have charged Azima with spreading propaganda against the Iranian state.

Azima is a broadcaster with Radio Farda, the Persian-language service run jointly by RFE/RL and Voice of America.

The move comes a day after another Iranian-American, the academic Haleh Esfandiari, left Tehran following her release from jail in August on bail.

Decision Welcomed

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi welcomed the decisions to allow Esfandiari and Azima to leave Iran.

"We're glad that they have been allowed to leave the country but that should have happened [straight away]. Holding them in prison or inside the country is against Iranian laws," she told Radio Farda.

"I am the lawyer for both Haleh Esfandiari and Azima and I have to say that from the beginning the cases that were created for these two were against [Iranian laws]. They haven't committed any crime; they were innocent and it's natural for them to leave the country, especially given the fact that they [are free] on heavy bail and when the date of the trial is set they have to return to Iran."

Two more Iranian-Americans remain in jail in Iran: Kian Tajbakhsh, a consultant with the Open Society Institute, and peace activist Ali Shakeri.

Tajbakhsh, along with Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, were both shown on Iranian television in July "confessing" to accusations of working against Iran's national security.

The broadcast was condemned by the United States, as well as by human-rights groups and prominent activists.

The Reuters news agency today quoted a Tehran judge, Hossein Haddad, as saying that Tajbakhsh will be released on bail when the investigation into his case is complete.

Government Crackdown

The detentions have been seen as part of a wider government crackdown on critics and others it sees as being a threat to the regime.

Targets of the crackdown range from intellectuals and women's-rights activists to teachers and workers.

Students have also been targeted through summonses to court, threats of expulsion, suspensions, arrests, and even imprisonment.

Iranian officials have said publicly that they suspect the student movement and women's-rights activists of being part of an enemy conspiracy for a "soft subversion" of the government.

Iranian-Americans Detained In Iran

Iranian-Americans Detained In Iran

Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was detained in Iran in May. She was charged with acting against Iran's national security. Esfandiari along with another detained Iranian-American scholar, Kian Tajbakhsh, appeared on Iranian television in July in a program that -- according to Iranian officials -- showed that the two are linked to a U.S. plot to destabilize Iran's Islamic establishment. Human-rights groups strongly condemned the program and said any statements that were made were coerced. Esfandiari was released from jail on August 21 on a bail of about $300,000. She was allowed to leave Iran on September 3.

Kian Tajbakhsh, a consultant with the Open Society Institute, was also detained in Iran in May, and released on bail on September 20. He is also facing security charges including acting against Iran's national security. He was reportedly detained at Tehran's notorious Evin prison in solitary confinement.

Ali Shakeri, a peace activist and businessman based in Irvine, California, is believed to have been detained since May 8. He was reportedly arrested at Tehran's international airport while leaving for Europe. Iranian authorities confirmed his detention in June. On August 12, Tehran's deputy prosecutor said that Shakeri's case was not related to the cases of Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh and that "the time had not yet arrived for providing full information about his situation." His wife, colleagues, and human-rights groups have expressed concern over his fate.

Parnaz Azima, a broadcaster with Radio Farda, was prevented from leaving Iran since a visit to her sick mother in January, when authorities confiscated her passport and charged her with working with Radio Farda and spreading propaganda against the state. On September 3, intelligence officials told her to collect her passport. Azima said she will leave Iran in the near future.