Detained Iranian-American says to be released soon

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TEHRAN, Sep 11 (Reuters) A detained Iranian-American told reporters visiting Tehran's notorious Evin prison today that he expected to be released soon after being held in solitary confinement since May.

Kian Tajbakhsh, a consultant with the Soros Institute, and Haleh Esfandiari, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, were separately detained for security-related charges in May while visiting the country.

Esfandiari was released on bail in August. She returned to the United States on early September.

''I expect to be freed soon ... My conditions inside the prison are fine,'' Tajbakhsh, wearing a striped grey and black shirt, told reporters taken on a visit to the prison, where many political activists and pro-reform students are held.

The visit was organised by the judiciary.

Tajbakhsh said he had been co-operating with Iranian authorities, adding he believed no formal charges had been raised against him.

However, judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said charges had been raised against the dual national but he would likely be ''released soon, probably within the next few days''.

Both he and Esfandiari have been charged with acting against national security and spying.

''I hope in the next one or two days, news about his (Tajbakhsh's) new condition would be announced,'' Jamshidi told reporters.

While Tajbakhsh praised the prison staff and his treatment, he said he had been in ''solitary confinement for about 120 days''.

Iran's state television aired a programme in July called ''In the Name of Democracy'', which Iran's Foreign Ministry said had revealed a US-backed plot to overthrow Iran's clerical establishment.

The United States denounced the programme as ''illegitimate and coerced'', urging Tehran to release the detainees.

Despite being freed on bail, the case against Esfandiari remains open although it is not clear if she will face trial.

Another US-Iranian Ali Shakeri, a founding board member of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California, is also being held at Evin Prison while a fourth was previously released on bail and her passport returned.

REUTERS SLD BST2135

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