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Iranian Americans Shown On TV

Two Iranian Americans, held for months against their will by the Iranian government, appeared on Iranian state television. Like other political prisoners before them, Middle East scholar Haleh Esfandiari and social scientist Kian Tajbakhsh, were compelled to "confess" to crimes against the state. Esfandiari had taught Persian language and literature for many years at Princeton University.

Lee Hamilton is the head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C., where Ms. Esfandiari works. He said, "This reprehensible pattern of activity by interrogators in Iran has occurred before: jailing innocent people, confining them, producing a framed or cobbled statement or confession. This is not a fair judicial process at work."

Besides Ms. Esfandiari and Mr. Tajbakhsh, two other Iranian-Americans are being detained against their will in Iran: journalist Parnaz Azima and peace activist Ali Shakeri. They have also been charged with acting against Iran's national security. Another American, Robert Levinson, has been missing since he visited Iran in March.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement that the United State is "appalled" at the mistreatment of the Americans held in Iran. "We are outraged", he said, "that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran would parade two of these American citizens on state-run television on July 16, showing Dr. Esfandiari and Mr. Tajbakhsh apparently reading statements made under duress":

"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 kind of people especially from leaving Iran really sends a negative message and is an unfortunate comment about the nature of this particular regime."

The U.S., says Mr. McCormack, calls "upon Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei to treat these people with the respect they deserve, to put an end to any further broadcasts, and to release all Americans currently being held on groundless charges. We also call on Iranian authorities to provide the U.S. with information regarding the whereabouts of Robert Levinson."