Friday, June 01, 2007

Haleh Esfandiari Charged (Unjustly) by Iranian Government in Assault on Academic Freedom

Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the non-partisan Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has been formally charged with espionage and "endangering Iranian security" according to Iranian judiciary spokesman 'Ali Reza Jamshidi. Esfandiari, a U.S. and Iranian dual-citizen, has been held without charges f0r three weeks.

In late December her passports were seized. She has been interrogated without proper legal representation for months. The Iranian government was/is reportedly interested in the activities of the Wilson Center regarding Iran. According to Lee Hamilton, the center's director, most of this information is available to the public via the center's web site: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/.

"Esfandiari has been formally charged with endangering national security through propaganda against the system and espionage for foreigners. ... The complainant is the Intelligence Ministry," said Jamshidi.

"We are extremely disheartened to receive this news," said Hamilton. "Haleh is a scholar. The work she does at the Wilson Center is open, non-partisan, and includes a broad range of views. At the Wilson Center, we do not take positions on issues, but rather, we bring all sides of an issue together for dialogue. As director of the Middle East Program, Haleh ensured that there was an open dialogue and that she convened meetings which allowed participants and attendees to discuss all views. We do not engage in propaganda. The Wilson Center receives zero funding from the U.S. government's fund to promote democracy in Iran. Her detention is an affront to the rule of law and common decency. The Wilson Center's message to the Iranian government is simple: Let Haleh go."

Haleh Esfandiari’s husband and Robinson Professor of History at George Mason University, said “these charges against Haleh are totally without foundation; there is not a scrap of evidence to support them. She should be set free and allowed to rejoin her family.”

Last 2 paragraphs taken verbatim from Woodrow Wilson Center press release.

For more information:
http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/05/29/ap3766480.html

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.item&news_id=238778

Letters protesting the unjust detention of Esfandiari and this inexcusable assault on academic freedom can be addressed to the Iranian interests section at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C. Personally, I do not normally write letters but in this case I feel the situation warrants it. Academic freedom must not be allowed to perish because of the despicable attempts by those who wish to reign in expression, discussion, and debate.

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