- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 5, 2009

UPDATED:

Iran on Sunday freed Iason Athanasiadis, a Greek journalist who had been reporting for The Washington Times when he was arrested more than two weeks ago.

Iranian state television quoted a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Hasan Qashqavi, as saying that Mr. Athanasiadis had been released under the framework of ties between Iran and Greece, the Associated Press reported.

The freelance journalist was detained June 17 at the Tehran airport as he prepared to leave Iran in the aftermath of disputed June 12 presidential elections.

Greek authorities, who had taken the lead in negotiating the release, confirmed that the reporter had been freed.

“I am deeply satisfied over the release of Iason Athanasiadis… . [We were] in constant, close contact with the Iranian Foreign Ministry,” Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said Sunday, according to the AP.

The Greek Foreign Ministry said the reporter “will depart Tehran within the day,” the news agency added.

Although hundreds of journalists, bloggers and political activists have been arrested in recent weeks, Mr. Athanasiadis, who is of Greek-British extraction, is believed to have been the only non-Iranian detained.

A Newsweek correspondent, Maziar Bahari, a dual Iranian-Canadian citizen, is still in custody.

The release occurred as the Iranian government and opposition political forces continued a rhetorical confrontation over the June 12 election, which the Iranian government says was a landslide victory for incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main opposition candidate, insists that he was the victor and has won backing from former President Mohammad Khatami, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s predecessor, and numerous other Iranians, including senior Shi’ite Muslim clerics.

Hundreds of people have been arrested and at least 20 killed during mass demonstrations that were violently suppressed by security forces.

No charges were filed against Mr. Athanasiadis. Mr. Qashqavi of the Foreign Ministry said that in the past the journalist had traveled to Iran using a British passport and claimed that he had been barred from entering the country for “violating the law.”

Mr. Qashqavi said that when Mr. Athanasiadis returned on his Greek passport, he became involved in encouraging demonstrators and was arrested because of this “unprofessional” behavior.

Fluent in Farsi as well as Greek and English, Mr. Athanasiadis is a graduate of Oxford University. He lived in Iran for three years while earning a master’s degree and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2007-2008.

A talented photojournalist and television producer as well as a print reporter, Mr. Athanasiadis also has reported from North Africa, the Levant, Egypt, Syria and the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf.

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