Washington Post: A semi-official Iranian news agency reported yesterday that California businessman Ali Shakeri is in custody in Tehran and is under investigation for possible national security violations. It is the first confirmation by Iran of his detention after repeated statements from the Tehran regime that it had no information on Shakeri. Washington Post
Report Cites Security Investigation
By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 9, 2007; Page A12
A semi-official Iranian news agency reported yesterday that California businessman Ali Shakeri is in custody in Tehran and is under investigation for possible national security violations. It is the first confirmation by Iran of his detention after repeated statements from the Tehran regime that it had no information on Shakeri.
Shakeri, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen and University of Texas graduate who has lived in the United States since the 1970s, disappeared from Tehran’s international airport on May 8 as he was preparing to return to the United States after the death of his mother in Tehran. His wife told The Washington Post that he had called her at least three times from Iran’s notorious Evin Prison.
The confirmation yesterday of his detention came from the ISNA news agency.
Human rights groups yesterday condemned Iran’s actions. “It took the Iranian government a month to confirm Shakeri’s detention, after several official denials that he is in their custody. This demonstrates the complete absence of due process and the arbitrary nature of his arrest, which was effectively state-sponsored kidnapping,” said Hadi Ghaemi of Human Rights Watch.
In a statement Thursday, the State Department said it was “dismayed” by Iran’s detention or imprisonment of several U.S. citizens “on groundless charges” and called for their immediate release.
“These academics, scholars and journalists, many of them in Iran to visit relatives, pose no threat to the Iranian government. Indeed, many of them have served for years as bridges between our two cultures,” said spokesman Sean McCormack.
Besides Shakeri, the detained Americans include Haleh Esfandiari of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, New York social scientist Kian Tajbakhsh, U.S.-funded Radio Farda correspondent Parnaz Azima and a fifth, unnamed American. All are dual U.S.-Iranian citizens.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the detainees issue would not prevent Washington from engaging Tehran on other contentious issues, such as Iran’s nuclear program and its alleged role in arming and aiding Iraqi militias.
Another American, former FBI agent Robert A. Levinson, has been missing since a business trip to Iran’s Kish Island on March 8. After five State Department requests for assistance, Iran said this week that it has no information on his whereabouts.
The State Department said yesterday that Iran’s response lacked credibility. “They once again claim to have no information about him. That is unfortunate, and we believe that there are many possible leads out there for them to pursue,” spokesman Tom Casey told reporters.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration tightened the economic squeeze on Iran yesterday by freezing bank accounts and financial assets in the United States belonging to four Iranian companies suspected of ties to Tehran’s nuclear program. The companies are Pars Tarash, Farayand Technique, Fajr Industries Group and the Mizar Machine Manufacturing Group.
Iran is under international pressure to end uranium enrichment, a process in producing nuclear energy that can be subverted to develop nuclear weapons.
“So long as Iran continues to pursue a nuclear program in defiance of the international community’s calls to halt enrichment, we will continue to hold those responsible to account for their conduct,” said Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.