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Iran Nobel laureate claims government blocking release of US detainees

[JURIST] Iranian 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi [advocacy website, in Persian; JURIST news archive] Monday accused the Iranian government of interfering in judicial affairs to prevent the release of two US clients currently detained by Iranian authorities. In a letter to Iranian Judiciary [official website] head Seyyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, Ebadi said the government had required Radio Farda [media website] correspondent Parnaz Azima to pay $500,000 bail. Ebadi contrasted that with the $10,000 bail demanded of a confessed rapist. She said that another client, Dr. Haleh Esfandiari [WWC profile], has been in solitary confinement for over 40 days, and that the Iranian government has refused to grant her bail or to allow Ebadi to meet with her [JURIST report]. Esfandiari is accused of being involved in an alleged plot "against the sovereignty of the country" and Azima is accused of being involved in an alleged espionage conspiracy against the government [JURIST reports].

Azima, who has been released on bail, cannot leave Iran because the government has confiscated her passport. Numerous Western officials, including US President George W. Bush, have called for the release [WH statement; JURIST report] of the detainees, who were all arrested last month. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation for Human Rights, and Ebadi have also issued a joint statement [text] calling for their release. BBC News has more. AFP has additional coverage.

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