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Iran's Judiciary Continues to Hold Iranian-American Professor Dariush Zahedi

By Ali Moayedian


It is over four months now since Dariush Zahedi was arrested in Tehran. Zahedi is an Iranian-American political science professor who teaches at University of California in Berkeley.  He had traveled to Iran in June to spend time with his family, as he had done in the past few years.


A picture of Zahedi taken shortly before his arrest shows him holding his niece Sathyia.
According to friends, one of Zahedi's reasons for going to Iran was to see her.



As a political science professor and researcher, Dariush Zahedi has been very involved and active in Iranian affairs. This is evident from the following



So it would have been very natural for Zahedi to take advantage of his trip to Iran to gain better insight into Iran's current political situation. And this is not out of line with Khatami's declared policy of "people to people exchange" which he has emphasized many times as the best way to create mutual thrust between the people of Iran and United States.


According to the news, the following prompted Zahedi's arrest:

  1. He had traveled to Iran for two years in row right before the anniversary date of the student protests
  2. He had met with the nationalist-religious dissident leaders.


None of the above is a surprise! Most people take long vacations during summer holidays. This is especially true of the people in academia. Also, as it was mentioned above, it's most normal for political scientist to talk to people of politics!


But as it was pointed in the previous article on this issue (Dariush Zahedi, an Iranian-American caught in the infighting of Iran's Information Ministry and Judiciary), the issue here is not guilt or innocence. The issue is the infighting between the two factions in Iran. And this infighting has time and again shown itself as disputes between Iran's Information Ministry and the Judiciary. In Dariush Zahedi's case, the Information Ministry has concluded that he is innocent and should be released. However, the Judiciary has claimed ownership of the case and ordered Zahedi held in solitary confinement. But perhaps solitary confinement is a blessing for Zahedi, as now the Iranian parliamentarians are warning that, should the Judiciary's interrogators be set free on Zahedi, another case of Zahra Kazemi may be in the making (Iran challenged over US professor).


The big question now is what's going to happen to Zahedi? It depends on what the Judiciary is trying to achieve. One possible scenario is the Judiciary wants to make a deal with the reformist faction over judge Mortazavi who has been accused of murdering Zahra Kazemi. That probably won't happen as Zahra Kazemi's case is the best opportunity the reformist camp to settle scores with the Judiciary (Iran reformists denounce judges), and also the case is being watched very closely by Canada.


Another possible scenario is the Judiciary has been holding Zahedi hostage to press for the release of the Iranian journalists held by US forces in Iraq. In fact Rafsanjani has recently complained that Zahedi's case is receiving a lot of coverage while the case of the journalists is being ignored. (This is certainly not true. There has in fact been a lot more coverage given to the case of the journalists as Zahedi's case was kept quiet by the family and didn't make headlines until mid October.)  But now that the news has come out that the Iranian journalists have been released by US forces (Iranian journalists freed in Iraq), if this was the game the Judiciary was playing, then there is a chance Zahedi will be released in the next few days.


And then there is another possibility that the very radical hardliners are holding Zahedi hoping to sabotage Iran-US rapprochement. Judging from the fact that most people who have ended up in solitary confinement in Evin have eventually confessed to something, it would be no surprise if Zahedi, breaks, if he already hasn't, and "confesses" to spying for US!  As an Iranian-American who has been pampered living a comfortable life here, I myself am ready to confess to anything with the slightest pressure on my thumb! In fact even the hint of pressing my thumb will do it J


But Zahedi's potential appearance on the TV screen and confessing to spying for US will only be another re-run of this often repeated episode, and it will certainly not attract a large audience. The hardliners need to become more creative to attract better crowds! But then again the hardliners could care less about crowds. It's been a long time the crowds have deserted them, and judging from the way the people have voted, or in the case of the last Council election, not have voted, the demands of the people have nothing in common with the hardliners views. But the hardliners continue to hold both hands tightly around the rudder and are hell-bent on leading the ship to the rocks!


Still it's unlikely that Zahedi will be kept for long in confinement. He only has a short-term value for the hardliners, and after he has served his purpose he will be freed.  Certainly Zahedi is suffering hugely in an Evin solitary cell right now. But then again he is a political scientist with great awareness of what is going on Iran, and even if he was not prepared for the treatment he is receiving, he must have been aware that there are consequences for people who take "people to people exchanges" too seriously and ask too many questions or poke their noses in the "wrong" places.


But there is a plus side to this for Dariush Zahedi. When he returns to his academia life, hopefully very soon, he will have first-hand knowledge about the way the Iranian political factions operate, especially those in the Information Ministry and the Judiciary! And hopefully that will help further his research in his field J


As for the Iranian Judiciary, Zahedi's case will only serve as another minus! Zahedi's case is just further evidence that Zahra Kazemi's brutal killing by her interrogators was not an isolated incident and that we should expect more of the same from the Judiciary as it stands. What the Judiciary will sow out of Zahedi's treatment is nothing but more shame and disgrace!



About the author:

Ali Moayedian is an Iranian-American residing in San Francisco Bay Area.

... Payvand News - 11/4/03 ... --

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