TEHRAN, Iran - Two Iranian-Americans detained here on national security
charges appeared Monday for the first time on state television, with one saying
in one of the brief video clips that his foundation may have targeted Islam.
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.
Haleh Esfandiari a detained Iranian-American speaking in this
image taken from TV during a TV interview at an unknown location in Iran
that was aired in Iran on Monday July 16, 2007. [AP]
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 US 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
"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 administration.
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 US
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
"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.