To av fire amerikanere av iransk opprinnelse som holdes fanget i Iran, ble mandag fremvist med «tilståelser» på TV. De «innrømmet» å være ledd i planer for å gjennomføre en «myk» revolusjon i Iran, maken til den i Øst-Europa.
Iranske myndigheter later ikke til å være klar over at fløyelsesrevolusjonene i Øst-Europa, fra Murens fall i 1989, til Ukraina og Georgia har en god klang internasjonalt. De har vært fredlige og båret frem av folket selv. Myndighetene signaliserer dermed at de frykter folket.
De fire som er arrestert er medlemmer av anerkjente institusjoner: Halef Esfandiari (67) er leder av Midtøstenprogrammet til Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars i Washington. Det har blant annet Kongress-representanter som Lee Hamilton i ledelsen.
Den andre som ble vist frem på TV var Kian Tajbakhsh, som arbeider for Georges Soros Open Society Institute, en liberal institusjon som har vært aktiv i demokratiseringen av Serbia, Ukraina og Georgia. Vladimir Putin har vendt seg mot Georges Soros i raseri og stemplet demokrati-arbeidet som undergraving. Det er interessant at Moskva og Teheran ser på arbeidet for et åpent samfunn med samme øyne.
De fire amerikanerne er ikke anklaget for spionasje, for for en «myk revolusjon». Innslagene igår var ledd i et bebudet program som skal hete «Under dekke av demokrati».
The TV images followed Iran’s announcement this month that fresh evidence had pushed its judiciary to launch new investigations into the cases of Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh.
State TV said the video clips were a preview for a longer program titled «Under the Name of Democracy» that will air later this week. Relatives and employers of Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh denounced the videos, saying they were coerced and illegitimate.
Along with shots of the Iranian-Americans, the preview also showed archived images of street violence and protests, apparently from Iran and Eastern Europe.
Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh appeared separately. They both spoke in Farsi and appeared to be in homes or offices.
Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant with the New York-based George Soros Open Society Institute, and Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, have been held in Tehran’s Evin prison since being arrested separately in May on charges of endangering national security.
Two other Iranian-Americans face similar charges.
Family members, colleagues and employers of the four Iranian-Americans deny the allegations. The U.S. government has demanded that they be released.
In one of the video clips, Tajbakhsh, 45, is shown reading from a piece of paper. «The role of the Soros foundation might have been targeting the world of Islam,» he says.
In another segment, Esfandiari wore what appeared to be the traditional black cloak called a chador. A man wearing glasses was shown seated across from her asking questions.
«I was an element in the velvet revolution in Georgia,» Esfandiari said. The TV did not elaborate or explain the context in which she said this.
But the Iranian Intelligence Ministry has accused her of trying to set up networks of Iranians with the ultimate goal of creating a «soft revolution» in Iran to topple the hard-line Islamic regime, along the lines of the revolutions that ended communist rule in Eastern Europe.
At another point in the video, Esfandiari said: «Finding speakers has been my role,» a possible reference to her efforts to bring prominent Iranians to the U.S. to talk about the political situation in Iran.
The Woodrow Wilson Center said any «confessions» made by Esfandiari — which Iranian state-run television says it will air later this week — have no legitimacy.
«Any statements she may make without having had access to her lawyer would be coerced and have no legitimacy or standing,» said former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, president and director of the Woodrow Wilson Center.
The Open Society Institute also said in a statement it was «disheartened by the Iranian government’s decision to stage television footage of coerced statements» made by Tajbakhsh and Esfandiari.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he had not seen the footage, but he renewed calls for the detainees’ release.
«These are people who have devoted large chunks of their lives to building bridges between the Iranian and the American people, so to prevent these kinds of people from especially leaving Iran really sends a negative message and is an unfortunate comment about the nature of this particular regime,» McCormack said.
The spokesman also renewed an appeal for information about the whereabouts of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran in March and has not been heard from since.
Iran in the past has allegedly forced detainees to incriminate themselves publicly on television.
It was unclear if the program scheduled to air later on state TV would also show the other two Iranian-Americans facing charges: Parnaz Azima, a journalist who works for the U.S.-funded Radio Farda, and Ali Shakeri, a founding board member of the University of California, Irvine, Center for Citizen Peacebuilding. Shakeri is in prison, while Azima is free but barred from leaving Iran.
Speaking from his home in Potomac, Md., Esfandiari’s husband, Shaul Bakhash, said some of the claims made in the video of his wife were «absurd.» Esfandiari has never visited Georgia or worked on issues related to the country or Eastern Europe, he said. Her work organizing speakers and academics for conferences is also not in dispute, he said.
«If that is all they can produce, it is pretty thin gruel,» Bakhash said.
International human rights groups, including New York-based Human Rights Watch, have expressed deep concern for the health of the detained Americans — especially the 67-year-old Esfandiari.
Esfandiari sitter i isolat.
Footage shows detained Iranian-Americans