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Report: Iran Court Jails U.S.-Iranian Scholar


Kian Tajbakhsh
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- A court has sentenced Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, who was detained after Iran's disputed June election, to more than 12 years in jail, the IRNA news agency has reported.

"The only thing I can say is that [the jail sentence] was more than 12 years," lawyer Houshang Azhari told IRNA.

Azhari said the sentence would be appealed.

The verdict looked certain to anger the United States, which is seeking to engage the Islamic republic in direct talks to resolve a long-running row over Tehran's disputed nuclear ambitions.

Tajbakhsh was among more than 100 people detained after the presidential poll who were in the dock at a series of mass trials that got under way in August on charges of fomenting postelection street unrest.

Tajbakhsh was accused of espionage and acting against national security.

The presidential poll, which was followed by huge opposition protests, plunged Iran into its deepest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The moderate opposition says it was rigged to secure President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's reelection. Officials deny it.

Iranian authorities have portrayed the protests that erupted after the election as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the Islamic republic's clerical leadership.

In July, the United States called on Iran to release Tajbakhsh and said it was "deeply concerned" about the scholar after he was arrested for a second time in just over two years.

Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American who holds a doctorate in urban planning from Columbia University, was first arrested by Iranian authorities in May 2007, charged with spying, and then released after more than four months in Tehran's Evin prison.

The United States, which cut diplomatic ties with Tehran after the revolution, accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is to generate electricity so it can export more oil and gas.