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Bush condemns Iran detention of Iranian-American scholars, journalist

[JURIST] President George W. Bush strongly condemned the Iran's detention of four Iran-Americans Friday, saying in a statement [text] that "they should be freed immediately and unconditionally." Bush named Dr. Haleh Esfandiari [WWC profile], Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh [OSI press release], Ali Shakeri [academic profile] and Radio Farda [media website] correspondent Parnaz Azima as among the Iranian-Americans detained, and also said he was "disturbed by the Iranian regime's refusal" to provide information concerning Robert Levinson [advocacy website], a former FBI agent who disappeared in March while visiting Iran [JURIST news archive].

On Thursday, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation for Human Rights, and Iranian 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi [advocacy websites] issued a joint statement [text] urging the immediate release of the four, saying that their detention violates both international and Iranian laws. They also called on the Iranian government to end its "persecution and prosecution" of dual-national scholars and journalists. On Tuesday, Iran formally charged Tajbakhsh and Azima [JURIST report] for conspiring against the government. Last Monday, Iran formally charged Esfandiari [JURIST report], director of the Middle East Program at the DC-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars [think tank website], with plotting to overthrow the Iranian government by organizing a network "against the sovereignty of the country." The Washington Post has more. AP has additional coverage.

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