Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Haleh Esfandiari and Parnaz Azima Free to Leave Iran

The following is excerpted from a Woodrow Wilson Center statement:

"Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, left Iran on September 2, and arrived in Vienna, Austria early on September 3. Iranian officials issued her passport on September 1st and she will return to the US after visiting family in Vienna.

“'After a long and difficult ordeal, I am elated to be on my way back to my home and my family. These last eight months, that included 105 days in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, have not been easy. But I wish to put this episode behind me and to look to the future, not to the past,' said Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program.

“'I am immensely grateful for the unstinting support I received from Wilson Center President, Lee Hamilton, and the Wilson Center staff. I am equally grateful to the many organizations and hundreds of individuals all over the world that called and worked for my freedom; to the journalists and news organizations that gave my case wide coverage; and to all those who interceded on my behalf. I owe thanks also to my lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, and her legal colleagues who so ably represented me.'

"'I wish especially to thank the Austrian ambassador to Tehran, Dr. Michael Postl and his colleagues, whose friendship and concern for the well-being of my mother and myself was truly extra-ordinary.'

"'I am sure everyone will understand my need, now, for a period of quiet and privacy before I resume my normal activities.'

"Esfandiari, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, was incarcerated in Tehran’s Evin prison on May 8, 2007, on allegations of endangering Iranian national security. During her lengthy confinement, she was denied access to her legal defense team and to independent monitoring bodies such as the ICRC and was allowed only limited contact with her family.For detailed information regarding Haleh Esfandiari’s detention and imprisonment, including a comprehensive timeline of events, please visit www.wilsoncenter.org/halehnews."

Meanwhile, Parnaz Azima, who works for the US-funded radio station Radio Liberty, was the second Iranian American to reportedly been given permission to leave Iran. She had been charged with spreading propaganda against theIranian state. She had earlier been released on bail but was unable to leave the countrybecause the authorities were keeping her passport.

Ali Shakeri Kian Tajbaksh are still being held in Iran.

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