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Cablegate: Demarche Request On Arrested Iranian-American

VZCZCXRO9090
PP RUEHDIR
DE RUEHC #8161 1380532
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 172216Z MAY 07
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 8271
RUEHDIR/IRAN RPO DUBAI 0003

UNCLAS STATE 068161

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

C O R R E C T I V E C O P Y (SENSITIVE CAPTION ADDED)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM IR PREL PGOV KDEM
SUBJECT: DEMARCHE REQUEST ON ARRESTED IRANIAN-AMERICAN
ACADEMIC HALEH ESFANDIARI

1. (SBU) ACTION REQUEST: The Department requests that post
ask the GOJ to engage the Iranian government on the case of
Iranian-American academic Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the
Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International
Center for Scholars in Washington. Dr. Esfandiari was
arrested by Iranian authorities in Tehran on May 8 and is
being held in Iran's notorious Evin Prison. The Department
understands that former Deputy Under Secretary of State
Strobe Talbott raised Esfandiari's case with LDP officials in
Tokyo on May 17, and that he plans to raise the issue again
with PM Abe on May 18. The Department supports Talbott's
request for GOJ assistance and requests that post pass the
following background information to the MOFA for their use in
prepping PM Abe and for engaging the Iranians on our behalf.

2. (U) BACKGROUND: Dr. Esfandiari went to Tehran in late
December 2006 to visit her 93-year old mother. On December
30, on her way to the airport to return to Washington, the
taxi in which Dr. Esfandiari was riding was stopped by three
masked, knife-wielding men, who took her baggage and handbag,
including her Iranian and U.S. passports.

-- Four days later, when applying for replacement Iranian
travel documents at the passport office, Dr. Esfandiari was
invited to an interview by a Ministry of Intelligence
official, which began a series of interrogations that
stretched over the next six weeks. Her interrogations took
place at two different locations, sometimes continuing for as
many as four days a week, sometimes stretching across seven
and eight hours per day. Although Dr. Esfandiari returned to
her mother's house every evening, the interrogations - which
totaled more than 50 hours - were unpleasant and not without
intimidation and threat.

-- The questioning focused on the Middle East Program at the
Wilson Center. Dr. Esfandiari answered all questions; when
she could not recall the details of programs stretching back
five and even eight years, the staff at the Wilson Center
provided her with this information. According to the Wilson
Center, all of their activities are on the public record, and
the interrogators could have obtained virtually all of the
information they sought through the Wilson Center website
(www.wilsoncenter.org) and through Wilson Center
publications. Repeatedly during the interrogations, Dr.
Esfandiari was pressured to make "confessions" or to
implicate the Wilson Center in activities in which it had no
part, which she refused to do.

-- The interrogations stopped on February 14. Except for one
threatening phone call on February 17, Dr. Esfandiari heard
nothing from her interrogators for the next 10 weeks, until
receiving another phone call in early May asking her to
"cooperate." She interpreted this as another demand for a
false confession, which she refused to give. On May 7,
Iranian officials again summoned Dr. Esfandiari to the
Ministry of Intelligence. When she arrived for her
appointment on May 8, officials put her into a car and took
her to Evin Prison, where she was allowed one phone call to
her mother.

-- This harassment of a 67-year old U.S. citizen and
well-respected scholar in both Iran and the United States is
unwarranted. Dr. Esfandiari has been prevented from seeing
her doctors in the United States by the withholding of her
passport for the past four and a half months, and by her more
recent incarceration in Evin prison. Despite numerous
efforts since December 30 to secure permission for her to
leave Iran, Dr. Esfandiari has been unable to obtain any
assistance from the Iranian government, which has not made
formal charges against her.
RICE

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