AFP: Iran said on Sunday that several US-Iranians detained on accusations linked to spying “have confessed” as it warned the United States not to interfere in their cases. TEHRAN, June 3, 2007 (AFP) – Iran said on Sunday that several US-Iranians detained on accusations linked to spying “have confessed” as it warned the United States not to interfere in their cases.
“Regarding the espionage of some Iranians, we have had good results. They have confessed to many issues,” the centrist Ham Mihan newspaper quoted the Tehran deputy prosecutor for security affairs, Hassan Hadad, as saying.
Iran has said it is holding Iranian-American academics Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh on charges of harming national security, in cases that several officials have linked to alleged US efforts to topple the clerical authorities.
Washington and hardline Iranian media have said that a third dual national, California-based businessman Ali Shakeri, has also been arrested, although this has yet to be confirmed by the authorities.
A fourth US-Iranian, journalist Parnaz Azima, faces the same charges and has had her passport confiscated even though she remains at liberty.
Hadad did not specify which of the accused had confessed or what they had revealed. But his remarks are the first time an official has spoken of confessions in cases that have further intensified strains with Washington.
He emphasised that “all of those arrested” have Iranian citizenship, a reference to Iran’s longstanding rejection of dual nationality.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman on Sunday also told the United States to stop interfering in the cases after President George W. Bush called for their immediate release.
“The American comments are a very evident example of interfering in our domestic affairs and they should stop these actions,” Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters.
“They are Iranian nationals and the relevant authorities, based on Iranian laws, are studying their charges,” said Hosseini.
Iran’s top national security official Ali Larijani told Washington on Saturday to stop “exaggerating” the cases of the four US-Iranians, saying it should worry about its own rights abuses.
Bush on Friday called for the “immediate and unconditional” release of the four dual nationals. “Their presence in Iran — to visit their parents or to conduct humanitarian work — poses no threat,” he said.
Esfandiari, the best known of the four, heads the Middle East programme at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars. She was arrested in March after returning to Iran to visit her 93-year-old mother.
Tajbakhsh is an urban planning expert who has taught in the United States and Iran and worked for the World Bank as well as the Open Society Institute of US billionaire George Soros.
Iran accuses the Open Society Institute of seeking to encourage a “Velvet Revolution” in the Islamic republic similar to the ousting of communism in Eastern Europe.
Shakeri works for a private conflict-resolution group called the Centre for Citizen Peacebuilding, while Azima works for Radio Free Europe’s Persian arm, Radio Farda.
The cases bear some similarity to that of Ramin Jahanbegloo, an Iranian-Canadian intellectual jailed for four months in 2006 for encouraging alleged US efforts to topple the authorities.
He was later released on bail and confessed to “acting against national security” by harbouring contacts with foreigners, although he insisted his actions were inintentional.