Iran frees U.S. scholar from prison on $333,000 bail

She is one of four Iranian-Americans charged with security offenses. She maintains her innocence.

Associated Press
Published August 22, 2007

TEHRAN, Iran - A detained Iranian-American academic was released from a notorious Tehran prison Tuesday after spending months behind bars on charges of endangering Iranian national security - allegations her family vehemently denies.

Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, had been jailed in Evin prison since early May after months of interrogation. Her 93-year-old mother used the deed to her Tehran apartment to post bail, relatives said.

"I'm very happy," Esfandiari told Iranian television. "It was unexpected. I thank all those who made efforts to make it possible for me to go home."

Mohammad Shadabi of the Tehran prosecutor's office said Esfandiari had been released on $333,000 bail, but he could not say whether she would be allowed to leave Iran.

Iran has charged three other Iranian-Americans with security-related offenses: Parnaz Azima, a journalist for U.S.-funded Radio Farda; Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant with the Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute; and Ali Shakeri, a founding board member of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California at Irvine.

Shakeri and Tajbakhsh are in prison; Azima is free but barred from leaving Iran.

Esfandiari, 67, was detained Dec. 30, the Wilson Center has said. For several weeks, she was interrogated by authorities for up to eight hours a day about the activities of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center, the foundation said. Iran charged Esfandiari in May, accusing her and her organization of trying to create a "soft revolution" in Iran.