Iran Frees American Citizen Held Since May

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 20, 2007

Iran released New York-based social scientist Kian Tajbakhsh from Evin Prison in Tehran late last night, according to George Soros's Open Society Institute, for which Tajbakhsh has served as a consultant.

Tajbakhsh is the third Iranian American to be released since Haleh Esfandiari was freed last month after more than eight months of growing tension between Iran and the United States over the detention or imprisonment of four American citizens in Iran.

"OSI is delighted that this distinguished scholar is safe at home in Tehran with his wife and that his harrowing ordeal finally seems to have come to an end," said the institute's spokeswoman, Laura Silber.

Unlike the other Americans, who were all visiting ailing relatives in Iran, Tajbakhsh had been working as a consultant to Iranian ministries on health issues such as HIV/AIDS and drug addiction prevention. His release at midnight, with no warning, followed by a day the departure of Parnaz Azima, a correspondent for U.S.-funded Radio Farda who was detained in Iran in January.

Tajbakhsh, who was arrested in May, was released just days before the arrival in New York of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly.

The status of the charges against the released Americans was left unclear.

Two Americans remain missing in Iran. Ali Shakeri, a California businessman, was also picked up in May. Former FBI agent Robert Levinson has been missing since a business trip to Iran in March.

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