Iran frees Berkeley lecturer held as spy Teacher plans to face accusers
San Francisco Chronicle
November 10th, 2003
A UC Berkeley lecturer held for nearly four months in an Iranian prison on espionage charges was released on Sunday and is prepared to fight a legal battle to clear his name, his friends and family members said.
Dariush Zahedi, 37, was freed on $250,000 bail paid by his family and is still subject to a criminal prosecution. He was arrested on July 10 while on an annual trip to visit relatives.
Although Zahedi, a vocal critic of the Iranian government, is now technically free to leave his native country, friends and family said Sunday that he intends to hire a lawyer and stay to face his accusers."That's his mindset,'' said Hooshang Amirahmadi, a Rutgers University professor who spoke with Zahedi on Sunday. "He thinks that he's innocent and he needs to clean his record.
"I think Dr. Zahedi will be cleared. If the case of spying was really serious, no amount of bail would have gotten him released. They just wanted to keep his mouth shut.''
Authorities at the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York did not return calls seeking comment on Sunday.
Zahedi was arrested when he agreed to speak with a political freedom movement in Iran. His arrest came as student protests and international criticism of Iran's nuclear weapons program were placing increased pressure on the Islamic regime in Tehran.
Zahedi was jailed at Evin prison, north of Tehran, where Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian Canadian journalist, died in custody in July following her arrest for taking photos of student protests.
On Sunday, Zahedi was careful not to discuss details of his detention in several phone calls to relatives and friends for fear that Iranian authorities might be listening, according to those who spoke with him.
"He has been under pressure, all kinds of threats and so on,'' Amirahmadi said. "I personally cannot confirm whether he was tortured or not. I asked him how it was. He basically said it was suitable -- OK. He is doing quite well, to my surprise. His spirits are quite high.'' Amirahmadi said.
He knows of no trial date set in the case.
Zahedi, a naturalized U.S. citizen who lives in Lafayette, is the author of "The Iranian Revolution Then and Now: Indicators of Regime Instability." A graduate of UC Davis and the University of Southern California, he teaches Middle Eastern politics at UC and Santa Clara universities.
Officials at UC Berkeley could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Zahedi and Amirahmadi are active in the American Iranian Council, a nonpartisan nonprofit group devoted to improving U.S. relations with Iran. Amirahmadi is the founder and president and Zahedi is the West Coast director of operations for the group, whose honorary chairman is former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance.
Zahedi's stepfather, who lives in the Bay Area and asked not to be named, got a call from Zahedi early Sunday morning just after his release.
"He sounded OK to me,'' the stepfather said. "I am happy to hear his voice.''
Another relative, who had a brief conversation with Zahedi, said, "I just asked him how he was. I don't think he was comfortable talking on the phone. I asked him if he could come back here. He said he didn't know.''
Zahedi is staying in Tehran with his mother and brother, relatives said. He is reportedly reluctant to talk publicly about his arrest to avoid damaging his chances of winning in court.
His case has been closely watched by human rights organizations and the U.S. government, although a spokeswoman for the State Department said on Sunday she could not comment on Zahedi's release.
And his arrest appears to have intensified divisions within the Iranian government between reformists and fundamentalist clerics.
Amirahmadi said Iran's Ministry of Information, which first arrested Zahedi, ultimately cleared him of spying. But the country's hard-line Department of Justice then took over the case. Amirahmadi said Zahedi's release could signal that the Iranian government is looking for a face-saving way to drop the matter altogether.
"He is not a spy,'' the professor added. "But he is certainly a critic of the regime.''
E-mail Charlie Goodyear at email@example.com. http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/11/10/ZAHEDI.TMP
Iran and the A-bomb
The Washington Times
10th of November
In discussing what to do about Iran's nuclear weapons programs, a disproportionate amount of attention is being focused on getting Tehran to comply with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and to permit the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out more comprehensive inspections of its nuclear facilities. Late last month, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain announced with great fanfare what they considered a hopeful sign: an Iranian promise to suspend uranium enrichment in exchange for the Europeans' promise to help the regime obtain peaceful nuclear technology. But the reality is that even if Iran were to comply with the promises it made to the Europeans (a big if), it would have only a marginal impact in slowing Tehran's progress toward developing nuclear weapons.
The problem lies in the fact that international community and the IAEA are too focused on Iran's covert nuclear program, and are giving insufficient attention to its potentially much more dangerous overt nuclear program. In an analysis paper, entitled "Iran: Breaking Out Without Quite Breaking the Rules?", the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC) reaches this chilling conclusion about the radical Islamic regime's efforts to develop nuclear weapons: "Iran can come within weeks of acquiring a large arsenal of weapons without breaking the rules of the NPT or IAEA and perhaps do so even sooner than when it might get its first covert bomb."
According to the NPEC (one of nation's leading research organizations on nuclear proliferation issues), "if Iran's overt program all stays on schedule, Tehran, in fact, could get a large arsenal of nuclear weapons 50 to 75 bombs by 2006." It could do this by operating its Russian-built light-water reactor (LWR) at Bushehr for 12-15 months. It could then chemically separate the plutonium from the spent fuel and convert it into metal. "Metal conversion and the chemical separation of the plutonium from the spent fuel might take an additional 12-16...weeks beyond the time Iran extracts the spent fuel from the LWR," the NPEC analysis observes. "Under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, all of this is legal. It is also legal under the NPT for Iran to make as many implosion devices (sans fissile cores) as one might want and have them ready to receive metal plutonium cores. At this point, some time by or before 2006, Iran could break out of the NPT and have a large arsenal of weapons in a matter of weeks or days."
By contrast, Tehran's efforts to use centrifuges to enrich natural uranium to weapons grade (a major focus of the IAEA's current inspections efforts) play a secondary role, functioning as a nuclear insurance policy: they could produce a much smaller number of atomic weapons for Iran 2-6 a year by the end of 2006, the NPEC concludes. The bottom line is that we may be much closer to an Iranian A-bomb (which could pose a tremendous danger to international peace and stability) than policy-makers and the public realize. http://washingtontimes.com/op-ed/20031109-103643-2000r.htm