A former Reseda man who worked for a federally funded program that helps refugees find jobs was executed Monday in Iran where he had been held on questionable spy charges, his family has learned.
Relatives in Tehran called Mohammad Reza Pedram's wife and three children in the Chicago area Tuesday to tell them the bad news, which was revealed on state-run radio broadcasts.
Where and how Pedram was killed was not divulged in the newscast, said his eldest daughter, Nazila Pedram-Samet. Iranian officials have not formally notified relatives in Tehran or the United States of the execution.
The family also has no word on whether the 56-year-old's remains will be returned. Under Islamic law, burial is supposed to take place within 24 hours of a person's death.
From Los Angeles to Tehran, Pedram's family and friends wept in stunned disbelief. "It's just too hard," a shaken Pedram-Samet said. "We were hoping for five years that he would come back. My mom is trying to be strong."
'Prisoners of Conscience'
Pedram's former colleague, Mohammad Parvin of Rancho Palos Verdes, vowed not to let his friend's death be in vain.
"This case is not going to end here; that I guarantee, even if I have to spend the rest of my life going after this," said Parvin, who runs Mission for Establishment of Human Rights in Iran, a grass-roots expatriate group that spotlights torture and executions of prisoners held by the Islamic Republic. "Mr. Pedram symbolizes . . . prisoners of conscience."
Pedram vanished during a 1996 trip to Iran to visit his dying father. His wife and children stayed behind in Reseda in silence, frightened that any protest over his imprisonment would anger the Iranian judiciary, which remains firmly controlled by largely anti-Western hard-liners rather than more moderate, elected officials. The family later relocated to Illinois.
Pedram, a former officer in the Iranian air force, was jailed in Evin Prison outside Tehran on what everyone who knows him says were trumped-up charges of being a U.S. spy, as well as desertion for emigrating in 1986 during the Iran-Iraq war.
Pedram's jailers repeatedly beat him in an attempt to coerce a confession, breaking several bones and damaging his left eye, relatives and friends said.
"My father's time is over," Pedram-Samet said. "But hopefully our pain will make a difference for somebody else."