Iranian hard-liners have refused to release a jailed UC Berkeley lecturer despite demands from government officials, a top lawmaker said Saturday, expressing fears that he could meet the same fate as a Canadian photojournalist who was killed in custody.
Dariush Zahedi, an Iranian-born U.S. citizen who also teaches at Santa Clara University, has been held since July on suspicion of espionage activities. He had been visiting relatives.
Mohsen Mirdamadi, who heads the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said the Intelligence Ministry, dominated by reformists, had requested Zahedi's release. But hard-line officials in the judiciary have refused.
"They keep such people in solitary confinement for a long time and put him under various pressures to confess to espionage," Mirdamadi said, according to Iran's official news agency.
Mirdamadi said that if Zahedi "resists pressures" during questioning to confess to espionage, "the story of Zahra Kazemi may repeat and [judiciary officials] won't accept responsibility."
Kazemi, 54, died in July after suffering head injuries during 77 hours of interrogation. She was detained in June while taking photos outside a prison during student-led protests. Prosecutors accused her of spying, but parliament has issued a report saying the charge was baseless.