Wednesday, August 22, 2007

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Iran's regime adds bribery and extortion to its bag of tricks

Yesterday the Iranian regime released Haleh Esfandiari, an Iranian-American academic (one of four U.S. academics the regime has arrested and imprisoned in the past year). She did not get away scot-free, however. In the New York Times, Nazila Fathi and Neil MacFarquhar explain Tehran's latest innovation:

Ms. Esfandiari’s mother had to post bail worth around $324,000, according to Iranian news reports. Ms. Esfandiari’s husband, Shaul Bakhash, said her mother had put up her apartment as collateral. She lives on the pension of her late husband, a retired civil servant, Mr. Bakhash said, and her apartment is all she owns. The Web site Baztab, run by the former head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, called the sum the average price of an apartment in Tehran.

Reached by telephone, Ms. Esfandiari’s mother said only that her daughter was resting and would not elaborate.

Bail in prominent cases — though often quite high in Iranian terms — has become more common, said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. An Iranian-Canadian academic released on significant bail last year was allowed to leave the country, for example, but has been closemouthed about his imprisonment because the deeds to his home and the home of his mother are being held as collateral.

“Sometimes it is simply because keeping them in prison has become too politically expensive,” said Abbas Milani, the director of the Iranian studies program at Stanford University. “Sometimes they are finished with a person but don’t want to leave them completely out of their control.”

Mr. Milani said that in jailing Ms. Esfandiari and the others, the Iranian regime had succeeded in intimidating the intellectual class, with many of them reluctant to attend any kind of conference abroad, while those living around the world with family members in Iran have become more circumspect. The overall affect has been to make American support and any interior soft revolution even more remote, he said. Iranian experts interviewed in the United States said the detention and intimidation of prominent intellectuals, artists and filmmakers, along with prohibiting them from traveling abroad even if they are dual nationals, has been far more extensive than has been reported.

Ms. Esfandiari went to Iran last year to visit her mother, who has been ill. She was barred from leaving the country in December, and underwent months of interrogation before being jailed in May.

posted by Dan on 08.22.07 at 08:09 AM


This is not totally new:
"In the case of Ramin Jahanbegloo, it seems that he was promised freedom and a passport if he gave an interview to "an agency of his choice", in order to tell them "just what he has confessed under interrogation." The offer had a twist: to make sure that Ramin would keep his side of the bargain, he had to post two houses as bail – his mother's as well as his own. The student news agency interview was the result."

posted by: Joe M. on 08.22.07 at 08:09 AM [permalink]

In the interests of debate:

I would imagine that Iran is aware of the very large amount of support and attention Ms. Esfandiari’s plight will have received in the US, including the US Government, CIA etc. If I was an Iranian bail officer, I think i'd set bail at a very high amount, knowing full well that for example George Soros might be more than happy to pay bail in such a case, and the smaller the amount, the more so.

Nauseating to be playing devils advocate for Iran right now especially when these things are going on, but is it that irrational a strategy to have a low threshold for assuming that 'pro-democracy intelligentsia' of your country will be extremely well-funded by others, including those not prepared to play as fair as the moral high ground of these articles might suggest?

posted by: George on 08.22.07 at 08:09 AM [permalink]

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posted by: zcjsydr tvofnblq on 08.22.07 at 08:09 AM [permalink]

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