Bush demands immediate release of Iranian-Americans
Washington, June 2: President George W Bush has condemned Iran's action of detaining four Iranian-Americans and called for their ''immediate and unconditional'' release.
In a statement yesterday, he said the four detainees peace activist Ali Shakeri, scholars Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, and journalist Parnaz Azima posed no threat to Iran and had gone there either to visit their parents or conduct humanitarian work.
Bush also demanded to furnish the whereabouts of a former FBI agent, Robert Levinson, who has been missing in Iran since early March.
The State Department confirmed on Thursday that Shakeri is being detained at Tehran's Evin prison. It is not clear if he has been formally charged.
According to reports, Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh are also being held in prison and have been charged with spying. Journalist Azima is also charged with spying, and has been barred from leaving Iran.
Shakeri is an advisory board member at a non-governmental organisation, the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California at Irvine.
Esfandiari is the director of the Middle East Programme at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Washington-based think tank.
Tajbakhsh is an urban planning consultant linked to the New York-based Open Society Institute, established by billionaire businessman George Soros.
''We are extremely disheartened to receive this news (of Haleh),'' said Lee H Hamilton, president and director of the Woodrow Wilson Center.
''Haleh (Esfandiari) is a scholar. The work she does at the Wilson Center is open, non-partisan, and includes a broad range of views. At the Wilson Center, we do not take positions on issues, but rather, we bring all sides of an issue together for dialogue.
''As director of the Middle East Programme, Haleh ensured that there was an open dialogue and that she convened meetings which allowed participants and attendees to discuss all views. We do not engage in propaganda,'' he said.
''Wilson Center receives zero funding from the US government's fund to promote democracy in Iran. Her detention is an affront to the rule of law and common decency. The Center's message to the Iranian government is simple: Let Haleh go,'' Hamilton added.