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Heard This Week - 04/26/2007

Heard in Iran This Week
on Radio Farda

(Washington, DC -- April 26, 2007) This week, Radio Farda followed the developing story of its stranded correspondent Parnaz Azima; considered the ramifications of the resumption of discussions between the European Union and Iran over that country's nuclear program; reported on an appeal for the release of jailed journalist Ali Farahbakhsh and updated listeners and website visitors on protests over the construction of a dam in Iran's ancient Persian heartland.

>> Radio Farda continued its coverage of the fate of Prague-based Radio Farda correspondent Parnaz Azima, whose passport was confiscated by Iranian officials at the Tehran airport in late January and has yet to be returned -- thus preventing Azima from returning to Prague.
On April 20, Radio Farda presented an interview with lawyer Nemat Ahmadi, who said that only a person who is being prosecuted can be barred from leaving the country. "According to law, a judge can only prevent a person from leaving the country when charges against them are proven in court," Ahmadi told Radio Farda. Lawyer and university professor Roza Gharachorlo told Radio Farda that there is no law in Iran that would bar an individual from leaving Iran simply because they work for a foreign broadcaster whose aims are not in line with those of the Islamic Republic (
On April 23, Radio Farda interviewed one of Azima's lawyers, Mohammad Hossein Aghasi, who told Radio Farda he had been informed by the Security Department at Tehran's Revolutionary Court that her case was being investigated and that she may have to remain in Iran for two or three years. According to Aghasi, the Iranian authorities want to put pressure on Azima by taking her passport without offering any charges to support such an action, and aren't in fact investigating a case against her. Aghasi told Radio Farda, "I have no hope that anything can be done [to recover Azima's passport] through the judicial authorities" (

>> On April 24, Radio Farda interviewed Dr. Shahram Chubin, director of research at the Geneva Center for Security Policy about the forthcoming meeting between European Union foreign-policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani in Ankara. In response to a question about Iran's motivations for agreeing to the meeting, Chubin said it should be seen in context with the U.S. desire to engage Iran not just on the nuclear issue, but also on regional issues such as Iraq. Iran, on the other hand, senses that after the imposition of sanctions by the UN Security Council that it is in a very difficult position, with little room for maneuver. Chubin also told Radio Farda that Iran's announcement of its ability to enrich uranium at an industrial scale was intended to "set a marker for the West" by asserting this capability while hinting flexibility about its plans to actually begin such enrichment (

>> On April 22, Radio Farda reported that 274 journalists had signed an open letter to Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi, calling for the release of journalist Ali Farahbakhsh. Farahbakhsh has been in prison since returning to Iran in November 2006 after attending an economics conference in Thailand. The signatories expressed their objection to the alleged charge of espionage based on Farahbakhsh's participation in economic conferences, saying that the Judiciary had not provided any evidence to support such a charge (

>> Radio Farda reported on April 21 that around 500 students and people rallied peacefully in front of the Cultural Heritage Organization in Tehran, to protest the filling of the reservoir behind the new Sivand Dam, located 100 kilometers north of the city of Shiraz. The protesters held signs that said, "Fill Sivand Dam and Destroy Pasargadae", "They Are Doing What Alexander Could Not" and "Alexander Set It On Fire, They Put It Underwater." The protesters also demanded the dismissal of Cultural Heritage Organization head Rahim Mashaei ( On April 17, Radio Farda reported that Shiraz University students held a day-long sit-in to protest the filling of the Sivand Dam reservoir (

For more on these and other stories about Iran, please visit: -- Radio Farda's Persian-language website -- "Focus on Farda" bi-weekly review -- "RFE/RL Iran Report" weekly analysis -- RFE/RL English-language coverage of Iran

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