Cal State student freed by Iran on bail; still faces trial
A Cal State Northridge graduate student who was arrested in Iran last month was released on $200,000 bail Monday, her father said.
Esha Momeni, 28, a dual U.S. and Iranian citizen who was visiting Iran to research a master’s thesis, may not leave the country and must still stand before a political tribunal to face charges of “acting against national security” and “propagating against the system,” said Reza Momeni, her father.
Both are serious charges that can carry lengthy prison sentences.
In a brief telephone interview, Momeni said his daughter had lost about 15 pounds but otherwise appeared to be in good health. He said he had to put up the deed to his family’s Tehran apartment as collateral to win his Los Angeles-born daughter’s release.
“I hope she will go back to L.A. soon,” he said. “But for now, the authorities told us she is forbidden to go out. Tomorrow, we will be in court, and they will tell us what the next step will be.”
Esha Momeni moved to Iran with her family at a young age but returned to the United States to study after she divorced in 2005. She traveled to Iran about 10 weeks ago to videotape interviews with women’s rights activists as part of a master’s project. She was focusing on members of the One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality, a loosely organized group that advocates better rights for Iranian women.
She was arrested and locked up in a political ward inside Tehran’s Evin prison Oct. 15 after what at first appeared to be a routine traffic stop. Instead of issuing a ticket, however, police escorted her to her parents’ home, where she was staying, searched the flat and seized her computer before taking her away.
News of the arrest spread abroad. Her classmates at Cal State Northridge launched a website, for-esha.blogspot.com, calling for her release. Italy’s ambassador to Iran last week lodged a formal complaint about her detention, Italy’s official ANSA news agency reported.
On Friday, her father was quoted by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency as saying he disapproved of his daughter’s activities.
“I had no knowledge about the illegal activities of my daughter,” he said. “But now I have realized that her work was illegal.”
He also denied reports that he had been barred from seeing her, saying that he and his wife “did not want to visit her” in prison “because of our anger in connection to her activities.”
Ramin Mostaghim reporting from Tehran
Borzou Daragahi reporting from Beirut