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Cablegate: Demarche: Missing/Detained Amcits in Iran

VZCZCXRO0403
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHDIR RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHC #0300/01 1592133
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 082124Z JUN 07
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 0114
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 7890
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1113
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 3799
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 5787
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 3522
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY 0639
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 3765
RUEHDIR/IRAN RPO DUBAI PRIORITY 0010

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 STATE 080300

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM IR PHUM EUN
SUBJECT: DEMARCHE: MISSING/DETAINED AMCITS IN IRAN

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Department asks that addressee posts
raise the issue of missing and detained American citizens in
Iran with their host governments and request that host
government contacts reach out to their Iranian interlocutors
regarding the speedy return of these individuals to their
families. Note that only one AmCit is currently missing in
Iran, Mr. Robert Levinson. The other four individuals -
Haleh Esfandiari, Kian Tajbakhsh, Parnaz Azima, and Ali
Shakeri - have been prevented from leaving Iran - and in some
cases imprisoned - by the Iranian government, which has also
publicly charged several of these individuals with
threatening Iran's national security. Together, these cases
represent a disturbing pattern of harassment of innocent
Americans in Iran. END SUMMARY.

----------
OBJECTIVES
----------
2. Begin Objectives.

-- Request that host government officials convey our concern
about the recent pattern of AmCit harassment in Iran to their
Iranian interlocutors.

-- Use background information provided below to outline
specific cases of concern, as appropriate.

-- Emphasize the high level of USG interest in each of these
cases, as evidenced by the June 1 Statement by the President
on the Detention of American Citizens by the Iranian Regime
(available at www.whitehouse.gov).

-- Stress that we believe it is within the power of the
Iranian government to assist in returning these individuals
to their families.

End Objectives.

----------
BACKGROUND
----------

3. Begin Background.

(U) Dr. Haleh Esfandiari is the Director of the Middle East
Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in
Washington. While visiting her 93-year-old mother in Tehran
in December 2006, her passports were stolen at knife point.
Four days later, she was summoned to the Ministry of
Intelligence to begin a six-week series of interrogations
focusing on the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center.
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 ended February 14, and she
heard nothing from her interrogators until early May, when
she was again summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence. Upon
her arrival on May 8, Esfandiari was arrested and taken to
Evin Prison where she remains. On May 29, a judiciary
spokesman charged Dr. Esfandiari, along with Kian Tajbakhsh
and Parnaz Azima (see below), with endangering Iran's
national security and espionage.

(U) Kian Tajbakhsh is an Iranian-American social scientist
and urban planner who works as a consultant for the Open
Society Institute. He has worked as a consultant in the
areas of local government reform, urban planning and social
policy, and has taught at universities in the United States
and Iran. On/around May 11, while Tajbakhsh was visiting
Iran on personal travel, Iranian authorities arrested and
imprisoned him. An Iranian judiciary spokesperson later
announced on May 29 that Tajbakhsh, along with Haleh
Esfandiari and Parnaz Azima, had been charged with
endangering national security and espionage.

(U) Parnaz "Nazi" Azima is an Iranian-American journalist for
Radio Farda based in Prague. Iranian officials confiscated
her passports at the Tehran airport on January 25 as she was
entering Iran to visit her mother. Azima has not been

STATE 00080300 002 OF 002


imprisoned to date, but she has tried unsuccessfully to
retrieve her passports from Iranian authorities on several
occasions. She was summoned to appear at the Revolutionary
Court on May 15, where the judge interrogated her for four
hours, accused her of antiregime propaganda and ordered her
to pay a bond of 800,000,000 Iranian Rials. Later, on May
29, a judiciary spokesman also identified Azima, together
with Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh as a spy charged with
endangering national security and espionage. Azima's lawyer
denies that she was ever charged with these crimes. She
remains out of prison at her mother's house in Tehran, but is
unable to leave Iran.

(U) Ali Shakeri works as a mortgage broker and peace activist
in Irvine, California, and is a founding board member of the
Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of
California at Irvine. He traveled to Iran in early May to
visit his sick mother (NOTE: Shakeri's mother has since died)
and was arrested by Iranian authorities on/around May 8. The
semiofficial Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) confirmed on
June 8 that Shakeri was being held on security-related
charges and investigated by the security department of the
Tehran prosecutor's office.

(U) Robert A. Levinson is a retired FBI Special Agent who
traveled to Kish Island, Iran on March 8 on personal travel.
Reports indicate that he checked into the Maryam Hotel in
Kish Island that day, and that two Iranian officials escorted
him out of his hotel room for "questioning" later that
evening. Mr. Levinson has not been seen or heard from since.
The USG has sent multiple "Swiss Note" message to Iran via
the Swiss Protecting Power in Tehran inquiring as to his
whereabouts, and Levinson's wife, Christine, has spoken
directly with Iranian PermRep Zarif at the UN in New York,
but so far the Iranian government has refused to acknowledge
either his initial visit or his continued presence in Iran.

End Background.

----------------
POINT OF CONTACT
----------------

4. (SBU) The POC for these cases is Rob McInturff in the
Office of Iranian Affairs (NEA/IR: 202-647-2520).
RICE

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