Iran confirms arrest of leading Iranian-American scholar

Iran confirms arrest of leading Iranian-American scholar

[JURIST] The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website] confirmed the arrest of prominent Iranian-American scholar Dr. Haleh Esfandiari [WWC profile] Sunday, saying that Esfandiari's arrest was "based on law" but did not elaborate on the reason for the arrest. On Saturday, the Kayhan, a state-controlled hardliner newspaper, accused Esfandiari of acting in concert with the United States and Israel in plotting to overthrow the Iranian Islamic Republic government. Esfandiari is the director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars [think tank website]. According to a statement [text] issued by the center, Esfandiari has been unable to leave Iran since December 30, 2006 when masked men stopped Esfandiari's taxi on her way to the airport and took her baggage and travel documents. Esfandiari was allegedly subjected to interrogation for several weeks thereafter and was formally arrested on May 7 and sent to the infamous Evin Prison [BBC backgrounder].

Last Wednesday, US State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack told reporters at a daily press briefing [transcript; recorded video] that the United States was aware of a number of US-Iranians being detained by Iran, and hoped that the detained scholar and a journalist would be released as they did not "pose any threat to the Iranian regime." Several members of Congress, including Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have called for the release of Esfandiari [WP report]. Iran has also confiscated the travel documents of Parnaz Azima, reporter for Radio Farda [media website, in English], a US-sponsored Persian language radio station. AP has more.