November 01, 2003
Lawmaker Fears for U.S. Lecturer in Iran
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Hard-liners have refused to release a jailed University of California lecturer despite demands from government officials, a top lawmaker said Saturday, expressing fears he could meet the same fate as a Canadian photojournalist who was killed while in custody.
Dariush Zahedi, an Iranian-born American citizen who lectures at UC-Berkeley, has been held since July, when he was detained on suspicion of espionage activities while visiting relatives in Iran.
Mohsen Mirdamadi, who heads the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said the Intelligence Ministry, which is dominated by reformists, have requested his release. But officials in the judiciary, which is controlled by hard-liners, have refused.
"The outcome is that they keep such people in solitary confinement for a long time and put him under various pressures to confess to espionage," Mirdamadi said, according to Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency.
Mirdamadi said if Zahedi "resists pressures" during questioning to confess to the espionage allegations, "the story of Zahra Kazemi may repeat and they (judiciary officials) won't accept responsibility."
Kazemi, 54, died July 10 after suffering fatal head injuries during 77 hours of interrogation. She was detained June 23 while taking photos outside north Tehran's Evin prison during student-led protests.
Tehran's hard-line prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi accused Kazemi of spying, but Parliament has issued a report saying there was no basis for that charge and accusing Mortazavi of covering up the killing.
Zahedi is being held in the same prison Kazemi was detained in.
Mirdamadi said Zahedi was among a group of people detained several months ago on Intelligence Ministry orders on suspicion of espionage.
"After interrogating them, the Intelligence Ministry concluded that espionage didn't apply to them and demanded their release. Others were released but the (Tehran) prosecutor general office didn't release Zahedi," the legislator said.
Mohammad Shadabi, a prosecutor's office spokesman, rejected Mirdamadi's comments, telling The Associated Press that "Zahedi is in excellent health and safe. There is nothing threatening him."
Shadabi said the Intelligence Ministry can't decide whether a detained person should be released or not, but said Zahedi's case could be resolved in the next two or three days.
Zahedi, a part-time lecturer at the Berkeley, Calif. campus since 2001, has written a book titled "The Iranian Revolution Then and Now: Indicators of Regime Instability" and was supposed to teach a class on war and peace in the Middle East. He also teaches at Santa Clara University, in the San Francisco Bay area. http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2003/nov/01/110109615.html