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The Iranian government should immediately release Ali Shakeri, an Iranian-American held in detention for more than four months without charge, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch also expressed concern that the Iranian authorities have denied basic due process rights to Shakeri and to four Iranian student journalists.

On May 8, 2007, Iranian security officials arrested Ali Shakeri as he was about to depart from Mehrabad airport and transferred him to Tehran’s Evin prison, holding him in solitary confinement without charging him with any offense or giving him access to counsel. Ali Shakeri’s son, Kaveh Shakeri, told Human Rights Watch that the authorities have not responded to his family’s numerous inquiries as to why Ali Shakeri is being held or when he may be released.

“It’s outrageous that the Iranian government has held Ali Shakeri in solitary confinement for over four months,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should order his release immediately.”

Shakeri, 59, a mortgage broker and founder of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at UC Irvine, traveled to Iran on March 14 to see his hospitalized mother and, after she passed away, stayed to take care of her funeral arrangements.

On the same day as Shakeri’s detention, agents of the Ministry of Information detained another Iranian-American, Haleh Esfandiari. On May 11, authorities arrested a third Iranian-American, Kian Tajbakhsh. The government eventually accused Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh of “spying,” “planning the soft overthrow of the government,” and “acting against national security,” but released them on bail on August 21 and September 20, respectively.

Human Rights Watch is also concerned that the government has denied basic due process rights to at least four Iranian student journalists currently detained in Evin Prison without access to lawyers: Soheil Assefi; Majid Tavakoli; Ahmad Ghassaban; and Ehsan Mansouri.

On July 31, police and security forces arrived at the home of Soheil Assefi with a warrant to search his home, and seized his computer, notebooks, and personal items. On August 4, Assefi responded to a summons to appear at Branch 2 of the Special Security Investigation Unit of Tehran’s Office of the Public Prosecutor, where authorities arrested him and transferred him to Evin 209 without charging him with any offense.

Assefi, 24, is a journalism and film student and blogger who has worked with the online newspaper Roozonline. Persons in Iran who have been in touch with Assefi’s family told Human Rights Watch that authorities have held Assefi in solitary confinement in Evin 209, where they have interrogated him and denied him access to lawyers or family visits.

Majid Tavakoli, Ahmad Ghassaban, and Ehsan Mansouri have been in Evin 209 since May, when agents from the Ministry of Information arrested them on charges of “insulting state leaders,” “inciting public opinion,” and “printing inflammatory and derogatory materials” in student publications. The students have consistently maintained that the publications were forged and that they had no role in producing them.

The Tavakoli, Ghassaban, and Mansouri families stated in a July 24 open letter to the head of Iran’s Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahrudi, that their sons had been subject to physical and psychological abuse in Evin 209.

“The government should not be putting people in jail for what they write, period,” Stork said. “The four students should be released immediately.”

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