- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2007

‘Reprehensible’ Iran

The director of a leading Washington think tank yesterday denounced Iran for planning to broadcast statements from an Iranian-American scholar held in solitary confinement in a prison where authorities are notorious for torturing inmates into making false confessions.

Lee H. Hamilton of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars again called for the release of Haleh Esfandiari, head of the center’s Middle East program, who was detained in December when she was visiting her mother in Tehran. In May, Iran transferred her to Evin Prison, where political prisoners have been confined and sometimes tortured to death, both under the current theocratic regime and under the government of ShahMohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Iran’s state-run television announced yesterday that Mrs. Esfandiari will admit to charges of espionage in a “confession” to be broadcast tomorrow or Thursday.

Mr. Hamilton said Mrs. Esfandiari, 67, has been held more than 70 days in solitary confinement and denied access to her attorney and family.

“Any statements she may make without having access to her lawyer would be coerced and have no legitimacy or standing,” he said. “This reprehensible pattern of activity by interrogators in Iran has occurred before: jailing innocent people, confining them and then producing a framed or cobbled statement or confession.”

Mr. Hamilton called the charges against Mrs. Esfandiari “ludicrous.”

Haleh is a scholar who has tried only to promote dialogue and understanding between the U.S. and the Middle East region, including Iran. We are extremely concerned about Haleh and her mental and physical well-being,” he said.

Mr. Hamilton, a Democratic congressman from Indiana for 34 years and co-chairman of both the September 11 commission and the Iraq Study Group, appealed to Tehran to release Mrs. Esfandiari and other Americans held by the regime.

“Let Haleh and the other detained Iranian-Americans return safely to their families,” he said.

New from France

France’s current ambassador to the European Union is expected to replace Jean-David Levitte as ambassador to the United States, according to reports from Paris.

Pierre Vimont has been nominated by France’s new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, but the appointment has not been announced.

Mr. Vimont, the envoy in Brussels since 1999, is a former director for European cooperation in the Foreign Ministry. The 58-year-old diplomat served at the French Embassy in London from 1977 to 1981 and later as a press spokesman at the Foreign Ministry in Paris.

Mr. Levitte, ambassador here since December 2002, said his farewell to Washington in a lavish reception Saturday on France’s national day.

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