Concern in Iran After a Scholar Is Held 3 Weeks
Nazila Fathi, The New York Times:
An Iranian philosopher and writer who also holds Canadian citizenship has been detained for three weeks without formal charges, raising concerns that his arrest could signal greater repression of intellectuals.
The scholar, Ramin Jahanbegloo, was arrested at the Tehran airport late last month as he headed to Brussels to attend a conference sponsored by the German Marshall Fund. He had just returned from a six-month teaching program in India.
A few days after the arrest, security officers took Mr. Jahanbegloo to his home and searched it, removing his computer.
The minister of information, Mohsen Ejei, told reporters this month that he was arrested because of "his contacts with foreigners." On Monday, the daily newspaper Jomhouri Eslami, which is close to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called Mr. Jahanbegloo "an element of the United States who was part of the plot to overthrow the regime under the guise of intellectual work by peaceful means." READ MORE
Mr. Jahanbegloo, who has delivered lectures on the prospects for democracy in Iran, wrote nearly 20 books in English, French and Persian on culture and philosophy. He is now the director of contemporary studies at Iran's Cultural Research Bureau and an advocate of nonviolence and intercultural dialogue.
Mr. Jahanbegloo's wife and mother have declined to talk to reporters in an effort to avoid complicating his case.
The arrest coincided with a crackdown on student advocates. A court has issued a suspended five-year sentence for Abdullah Momeni, a student leader, and an 18-month sentence for Mehdi Aminzadeh, another leader. Each was accused of being part of the pro-democracy demonstrations in 2002 during which students demanded the release of Professor Hashem Aghajari, who received a death sentence after questioning the authority of high-ranking clerics.
However, he has been arrested by the Ministry of Information, unlike the others, who were arrested by the judiciary. His arrest was a shock since he was not involved in activism and had advocated dialogue and tolerance in his writings.
Mr. Momeni said the arrest of Mr. Jahanbegloo made sense only as an effort to frighten dissidents. "He was just a university professor and intellectual who advocated philosophical theories," he said. "He had no access to any classified information."
"It seems that the authorities want to intimidate freethinkers and professors," he added. "They do not want intellectuals to have the freedom to advocate secular and democratic theories which can lay the foundation for democracy."
The arrest has further strained relations between Canada and Iran, which soured after an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, Zahra Kazemi, was killed in detention in the notorious Evin prison in 2003.
Mr. Jahanbegloo is also in Evin, in solitary confinement in Section 209, an area controlled by the Iran's Ministry of Information, people familiar with his case say. Former prisoners said people held in this section received better treatment than those in the section controlled by the Judiciary. Mr. Jahanbegloo told his family over the phone that he was being treated well and fed well.
Former detainees said they were usually interrogated for long periods, then returned to a tiny room with just a toilet, sink and a lamp that never turned off. After their release, many have said they had been forced to make false confessions.