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Heard This Week - 05/24/2007

Heard in Iran This Week
on Radio Farda

(Washington, DC -- May 24, 2007) Radio Farda kept listeners and website visitors updated on the fates of three Iranian-Americans being held in Iran against their will -- Radio Farda correspondent Parnaz Azima, academic Haleh Esfandiari and consultant Kian Tajbakhsh, while continuing to report on developments concerning Iran's highly controversial nuclear enrichment program.

>> Radio Farda broadcast and posted to its website on May 21 an exclusive interview with Mohammad Hossein Aghasi, the lawyer representing Radio Farda correspondent Parnaz Azima in her efforts to regain her passport and leave Iran. Aghasi told Radio Farda the prosecutor handling Azima's case will charge her with working for Radio Farda, which the prosecutor's office claims "spreads propaganda against the Islamic Republic regime." The prosecutor also demands that she should pay more than $440,000 in bail an amount equivalent to the income she earned while working for RFE/RL, as "the money was received in exchange for committing a crime." Even though the bail was paid, the authorities have not returned Azima's passport. Aghasi argued that Azima has not committed a crime, stating his opinion that one of the goals of barring Azima from leaving the country might be to keep journalists working at foreign media outlets such as Radio Farda from traveling to Iran (
On May 23, Radio Farda again interviewed Aghasi, who told listeners and website visitors he had been informed by the Special Security Bureau of the Revolutionary Court's Public Prosecutor's office that the bail for Parnaz Azima has been increased from approximately US$440,000 to US$550,000. Aghasi also said that he believes the final decision in Azima's case -- either conviction or acquittal -- won't be made for some time. "However," Aghasi said, "We will continue to work to get her passport back" (

>> On May 17, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi told Radio Farda that the arrest of Woodrow Wilson International Center Middle East program director Haleh Esfandiari was illegal. In Iran, Ebadi said, the Revolutionary Courts never allow political defendants to talk to their lawyers or be informed of their charges -- and this is against the law. She also noted that, while Esfandiari had requested representation by a lawyer from the Center for Human Rights Defenders during a phone conversation with her mother, the prosecutor dealing with Esfandiari's case said she told him she does not want a lawyer (
On May 18, Radio Farda interviewed U.S. Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) about Haleh Esfandiari's arrest. Rep. Frank called Esfandiari's visit to her sick mother in December 2006 "an act of mercy" and called her arrest "absolutely outrageous" and "an act of barbarism" (
On May 21, Iran's Information Ministry issued a statement in which it charged the detained Iranian-American academic Haleh Esfandiari with "seeking to topple the Islamic Republic regime". According to this statement, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars serves as a "link between Iranians and the U.S. organizations and institutions whose main objective is to fortify the groups that act in line with the interests of the foreign powers." The statement also suggests that "Mrs. Esfandiari's cooperation" helped to identify the head and representative of the U.S. based Soros Foundation in Iran, which "sponsored and financed the Woodrow Wilson Center's activities and programs related to Iran." The statement stressed that the Soros Foundation "was owned by George Soros and has played key roles in intrigues that have led to 'Color Revolutions' in the former USSR in recent years" (
The U.S. government dismissed suggestions that Haleh Esfandiari sought to overthrow the Islamic Republic. "It's absolutely absurd to claim that this researcher... poses a threat to the Iranian regime," U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters on May 22, in a statement broadcast by Radio Farda. Casey repeated the U.S. demand for Esfandiari's immediate release (

>> On May 23, citing "The Washington Post," Radio Farda reported that Kian Tajbakhsh, a consultant for George Soros' Open Society Institute was arrested around May 11 in Tehran. Tajbakhsh's family was only informed of his detention in the past week. Tajbakhsh is the fourth Iranian-American citizen to be arrested or otherwise kept in Iran in recent months (

>> Radio Farda reported on May 23 that Iran continues to defy the UN Security Council's demand that it halt its uranium enrichment program. The report, by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Mohamed ElBaradei, faults Tehran for blocking IAEA efforts to probe "suspicious" nuclear activities. It also expresses concern about its "deteriorating" understanding of unexplored aspects of the program. Radio Farda also reported on a statement by U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Gregory Schulte, who expressed his concern about the IAEA findings on Iran (

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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