Iran charges 3 Iranian Americans with spying

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Iran charges 3 Iranian Americans with spying

Postby IPC » Tue May 29, 2007 6:56 pm

Iran charges 3 Iranian Americans with spying
TEHRAN (Reuters)

Iran has charged three Iranian-Americans with spying, a judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday.

The espionage charges were announced just one day after the United States and Iran held their most high-profile talks in almost 30 years. The Baghdad discussions between the two foes were restricted solely to Iraq.

Image
Kian Tajbakhsh in an undated handout photo released to Reuters on May 29, 2007. Iran has charged three Iranian-Americans, including Tajbakhsh with spying, a judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday. (Handout/Reuters)

The judiciary spokesman said the three facing spy charges were academic Haleh Esfandiari, social scientist Kian Tajbakhsh and journalist Parnaz Azima.

Image
Iran's Judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi speaks with journalists during a weekly news conference in Tehran May 29, 2007. Iran's judiciary confirmed on Tuesday the detention of an Iranian-American social scientist on charges of spying, one of a number that U.S. officials and think-tanks had reported held. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Under Iran's Islamic sharia law, the charge could carry the death sentence.

Tehran accuses Washington of using intellectuals and others inside the country to undermine the Islamic state through what it calls "velvet revolution." The United States has dismissed the accusation.

Iran has arrested, detained or prevented a number of U.S.-Iranian citizens from leaving the country, including Esfandiari, the director of the U.S. Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars' Middle East program.

Image
Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the U.S. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' Middle East program, in an undated file photo. Iran has charged three Iranian-Americans, including Esfandiari, with spying, a judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday. (Woodrow Wilson Center/Handout/Reuters)

Washington has condemned the arrest of Esfandiari, detained on May 8 for acting against national security and spying.

Judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said the Intelligence Ministry was investigating the case of Tajbakhsh.

"Tajbakhsh's charges are acting against Iran's national security ... and spying for foreigners," Jamshidi told a weekly news conference.

"The intelligence ministry has launched the complaint against him and investigations are at preliminary stages."

The New York-based Open Society Institute said last week the social scientist and urban planner had been arrested and imprisoned in Iran around May 11.

Azima, a reporter for U.S.-funded Radio Farda, has also been kept from leaving Iran, although the judiciary spokesman said Azima was not under arrest.

"Azima is ... free. But she faces the same charges (acting against national security and spying)," Jamshidi said.


U.S.-IRAN TALKS

Another Iranian-American, Ali Shakeri, is also believed to have been banned from leaving Iran, but Jamshidi said he had neither been arrested nor charged.

A Californian institute with which Shakeri is affiliated says he has not been heard of since March.

Washington and Tehran are at odds over Iran's nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at making atom bombs. They have not had diplomatic ties since just after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, which toppled the U.S.-backed Shah.

Monday's rare U.S.-Iranian talks were narrowly focused on Iraq's spiraling sectarian violence and did not touch on issues like Tehran's nuclear ambitions, which Iran says are peaceful.

U.S. officials believe Tehran may also be holding former FBI official Robert Levinson, who went missing early in March while on a visit to the Iranian island of Kish. Iran has denied this.

Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran on Sunday to condemn what it said was U.S. backing of "spy networks" inside Iran. The Swiss embassy represents U.S interests in Iran.

It was not clear if the "spy networks" were linked to the recent detention of Iranian-Americans.
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