Monday, May 21, 2007

Iran charges Iranian-American academic of seeking to topple regime

From the IHT:

"Soft toppling of the country-by soft hostage."

Iran on Monday charged detained Iranian-American academic Haleh Esfandiari of seeking to topple the ruling Islamic establishment, state-run television reported.

Esfandiari, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, has been held at Tehran's notorious Evin Prison since early May. State TV said she and the Wilson Center were conspiring together to topple the government by setting up a network "against the sovereignty of the country.

This is an American designed model with an attractive appearance that seeks the soft-toppling of the country."

The announcement was the first time Iran said it had officially charged Esfandiari of seeking to overthrow the ruling establishment, a severe security crime. It was not immediately clear when Esfandiari will stand trial or if the trial will be public.

The "crimes" she has purportedly "confessed to"...

The broadcast said Esfandiari confirmed during interrogations that her center "invited Iranians to attend conferences, offered them research projects, scholarships ... and tried to lure influential elements and link them to decision-making centers in America."

She has been denied legal representation, perhaps you can help by sending a letter on her behalf.

Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner and the lead attorney for imprisoned American scholar Haleh Esfandiari, charged yesterday that the Iranian government has turned down her request to represent the Potomac resident, refused information on the charges against Esfandiari and denied a legal team access to its client.

Payvand weighs in with an analysis of "root causes" of Dr. Esfandiari's arrest, the context of repression and what the regime could possibly be thinking here. Here's a sample:

The Iranian president has been creating crises - local and international - on a routine basis since he was elected to office in June 2005. Haleh Esfandiari, in the regime's twisted logic, may have seemed an appropriate target for its punishment: in her capacity as director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, she had offered fellowships to young scholars from Iran (who are naturally inclined toward reform and democracy). This may have been enough for Tehran's hardliners to have plotted Esfandiari's arrest, enabling them to accuse her (bizarrely) of espionage and undermine their rivals in Iran by associating the latter with her.