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Iran Frees Fourth Detained Iranian-American

U.S. -  Ali Shakeri, Iranian-American activist, undated
Ali Shakeri
September 25, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Iranian authorities have released Ali Shakeri, an Iranian-American peace activist who had been detained for months on suspicion of harming national security.

Shakeri is the last Iranian-American to be freed from among a total of four who were taken into custody or prevented from leaving Iran earlier this year.

A California-based peace activist and businessman, Shakeri was detained in May while on a private trip to Iran to visit family members. He was held by the Iranian authorities for 138 days under the vaguely worded accusation of intending to harm national security. The Iranians have never made clear what he is supposed to have done.

Radio Farda reported today that Shakeri was freed from Evin prison on September 24 on bail of 1 billion rials ($107,000). It is unclear whether he has permission to leave the country.

His release comes just before Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York later today, and it appears it could be a gesture on the Iranian side linked to the delivery of the speech.

Last Of Four U.S. Citizens Held

Shakeri is a board member of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California, which studies how citizens can promote peace in divided societies.

He is one of four dual Iranian-American citizens who were detained or prevented from leaving Iran in the course of this year. The others were Haleh Esfandiari, a scholar at the U.S. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; social scientist and urban planner Kian Tajbakhsh, a consultant to the New York-based Open Society Institute; and Parnaz Azima, a reporter for U.S.-funded Radio Farda.

Azima was the only one of the four not jailed, but her passport was confiscated.

All faced various security-related accusations, and all have recently been released. Esfandiari and Azima have now flown out of Iran. Tajbakhsh must get the permission of a judge before he can leave Iran.

News agencies have quoted diplomats as suggesting the Iranian actions against the Iranian-Americans are possibly retaliation for the arrest by the U.S. military of five Iranians in Iraq in January.

The incidents have increased tension between Tehran and Washington at a time of growing concern about the Iranian nuclear program, which the United States claims is aimed at making a nuclear weapon. That charge has repeatedly been rejected by Iranian officials, most recently by President Ahmadinejad during an appearance at Columbia University in New York on September 24.

Copyright (c) 2007 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

... Payvand News - 9/25/07 ... --

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