Iranian hard-liners refuse to release jailed American

Top lawmaker fears man may be killed in custody

November 02, 2003|By ASSOCIATD PRESS

TEHRAN, Iran - Hard-liners have refused to release a jailed University of California lecturer despite demands from government officials, a top lawmaker said yesterday, expressing fears that the man 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, head of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said the Intelligence Ministry, which is dominated by reformists, has 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 that 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.

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