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Iran makes arrests in cases against Americans

From the Associated Press

New arrests were announced Wednesday in the cases of two Iranian Americans held here on charges of conspiring against the government.

State radio quoted Intelligence Minister Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei as saying, “Internal elements related to these people have been arrested.”

Ejei did not say how many people were arrested or give details on their alleged connections to Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh.

The Intelligence Ministry has alleged that Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh were seeking to set up networks to foment a “velvet revolution” against Iran’s Islamic government. Families and employers of the two have denied the charges.

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Esfandiari, 67, director of the Middle East program at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has been held largely incommunicado since May.

Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant with the Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute, also has been held since early May.

Last week, Iranian state television aired footage of Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh in a program that it said provided evidence of the allegations against them. The 50-minute program showed a montage of disparate quotes combined to form what could be interpreted as incriminating statements, which the detainees’ supporters and the U.S. government called illegitimate and coerced.

The footage also prompted criticism from moderates in Iran.

Two other Iranian Americans face similar charges: Parnaz Azima, a journalist who works for U.S.-funded Radio Farda, and Ali Shakeri, a founding board member of UC Irvine’s Center for Citizen Peacebuilding. Shakeri is in prison. Azima is free but barred from leaving Iran.

The detentions have become another point of contention between Iran and the U.S.

Tehran has been demanding the release of five Iranians, who it says are diplomats, detained by the United States in Iraq. The U.S. has said they are the operations chief and members of Iran’s elite Quds Force, which is accused of arming and training Iraqi militants.


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