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Dissidents Arrested In Iran

The Iranian government has arrested a number of student activists, including Ahmad Batebi. Mr. Batebi was re-arrested while on medical leave from a fifteen-year sentence, later reduced to ten years. He was detained in 1999 after a photograph was published in which he was shown holding up a bloodstained shirt belonging to a friend who was attacked by Iranian security forces during a peaceful student protest.

Other student activists taken into custody in recent weeks include Abofazi Jahandar, Kheirollah Derakhshandi, and Jamal Zaher-Poor. Hadi Ghaemi, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, an independent monitoring group, told a reporter Human Rights Watch is "very much concerned about their whereabouts and what charges are being brought against them." Mr. Ghaemi said those arrested have not had access to their families or attorneys.

In a written statement, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States "is deeply concerned about the detention of a number of Iranian student activists." He said the U.S. call[s] on the Iranian government to respect the rights of its citizens and to free Ahmed Batebi and all of those imprisoned as a consequence of defending universally accepted human rights. The Iranian regime's continued efforts to suppress freedom of speech and assembly," said Mr. McCormack, "make clear the hollowness of its professed openness to peaceful dialogue and debate."

President George W. Bush says the U.S. supports the "Iranian people's efforts to win their own freedom":

"Iran is a nation held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people and denying them basic liberties and human rights."

The United States, says Mr. Bush, supports the desire of Iran's people "to build a free, democratic and transparent society."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.