Reuters: Iran has imprisoned an Iranian American affiliated with George Soros’ Open Society Institute, the foundation said on Wednesday, marking the fourth dual citizen to be detained in Iran in recent months. By Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iran has imprisoned an Iranian American affiliated with George Soros’ Open Society Institute, the foundation said on Wednesday, marking the fourth dual citizen to be detained in Iran in recent months.
Diplomats fear the detentions, which follow the U.S. military’s arrest of five Iranians in Iraq in January, could herald further deterioration in relations between the two countries, which have not had diplomatic ties since 1980.
The New York-based Open Society Institute, a foundation that promotes democratic governance and human rights, said Tehran-based social scientist and urban planner Kian Tajbakhsh was imprisoned in Iran around May 11.
“He is in prison,” said spokeswoman Laura Silber.
The other dual citizens arrested, detained or otherwise kept from leaving Iran include Haleh Esfandiari, a 67-year-old scholar at the U.S. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars think tank; Parnaz Azima, a reporter for U.S.-funded Radio Farda; and a third person whom the U.S. government has not identified.
The State Department had no comment on Tajbakhsh, who is 45. It said Iran had not yet allowed Swiss diplomats, who protect U.S. interests in Iran, to visit Esfandiari in Tehran’s Evin prison.
U.S. officials also believe Tehran may be holding former FBI official Robert Levinson, who disappeared in March. Iran has denied it is holding him.
Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has accused the Soros group of promoting “soft revolution” in Iran — a term Iranian officials use to refer to a perceived U.S. plot to use intellectuals and others inside Iran to undermine the Islamic state.
The Wilson Center said charges against Esfandiari stem from the relationship between the Soros Foundation and the center’s Middle East Program, which has received money from Soros’ Open Society Institute.
The center denies Iranian claims that it or Esfandiari have sought to undermine any government, including that of Iran.
The Open Society Institute said its activities in Iran have focused on humanitarian relief, public health, and arts and culture, with the full knowledge of the Iranian government.
The detentions take place amid tension between the United States and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at making atom bombs. Iran denies this, saying it wants nuclear power to generate electricity.
The two countries, which cut ties after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, are also at odds over Iraq, where Washington accuses Tehran of fomenting the insurgency and of providing sophisticated roadside bombs that have killed U.S. soldiers.
U.S. forces in Iraq detained five Iranians in a raid in January and said they were linked to Iranian Revolutionary Guard networks that provided weapons to insurgents. Iran has said the five were diplomats and has demanded their release.
In a rare face-to-face session, Iranian and U.S. officials plan to meet in Iraq on Monday to discuss security in the country, where violence rages more than four years after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.