Iran General NewsRice calls on Iran to release jailed US-Iranian scholar

Rice calls on Iran to release jailed US-Iranian scholar

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AFP: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Iran Tuesday to release immediately a US-Iranian scholar jailed in Tehran on charges of acting against Iran’s national security. MOSCOW, May 15, 2007 (AFP) – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Iran Tuesday to release immediately a US-Iranian scholar jailed in Tehran on charges of acting against Iran’s national security.

“She ought to be released and she ought to be released immediately,” Rice said of Haleh Esfandiari.

Esfandiari works for the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and has been held in Tehran’s Evin prison since May 8 after being prevented from leaving the country for several months.

Rice told journalists during a visit to Moscow that Esfandiari’s arrest “underscores the nature of the Iranian regime.”

“It just gives strength to the argument that it’s a regime that, in addition to all of the problems it causes internationally, does not treat its people, or in this case a dual citizen, very well,” she said.

Iranian officials confirmed earlier Tuesday that Esfandiari was being held by the country’s intelligence service for “acting against national security.”

Iran does not recognise dual nationality and the authorities in Tehran have emphasised that she will be treated as an Iranian.

Relatives of Esfandiari, who has lived in the United States for more than 25 years, said she had been prevented from leaving Iran since December after returning to visit her ailing mother.

Her passport was confiscated and she was subjected to interrogations by the intelligence service before being arrested last week.

An Iranian hardline paper on Saturday accused Esfandiari of being an “Israeli intelligence service agent” and seeking to foment revolution in Iran.

“As she has followed secret missions, she is one of those who could be categorised as a media and academic spy,” the Kayhan daily said.

Esfandiari’s arrest came after the authorities confiscated the passport of another dual US-Iranian national, Parnaz Azima, who is a journalist working for the US-government broadcaster, Radio Farda.

Azima visited Tehran in January, also to visit a sick family member, and her Iranian passport was taken at the airport, leaving her stranded in the country ever since.

The State Department has said an ex-FBI agent, Robert Levinson, went missing earlier this year on the southern Iranian resort island of Kish but Tehran insists it has not detained the man.

The United States has said it has no information that Levinson ever left Iran but the authorities in Tehran have for their part stressed there is no information that he ever went to Kish island.

His wife has written a letter to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asking for help in finding out more about his mysterious disappearance.

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