TEHRAN (AP) — Iranian hard-liners have refused to release a jailed University of California lecturer despite demands from government officials, a top lawmaker said yesterday, expressing fears he 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 the University of California, Berkeley, has been held since July, when he was detained on suspicion of espionage while visiting relatives in Iran.
Mohsen Mirdamadi, who heads 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,” Mr. Mirdamadi said, according to Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency.
Mr. Mirdamadi said if Mr. Zahedi “resists pressures” during questioning to confess to the espionage charges, “the story of Zahra Kazemi may repeat and [judiciary officials] won’t accept responsibility.”
Mrs. 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.
Tehran’s hard-line prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi accused Mrs. Kazemi of spying, but parliament has issued a report saying there was no basis for that charge and accused Mr. Mortazavi of covering up the killing.
Mr. Zahedi is being held in the same prison Mrs. Kazemi was detained in.
Mr. Zahedi was supposed to teach a class on war and peace in the Middle East.