Release Kian Tajbakhsh!

Pictures and video footage of Tuesday’s show trials in Tehran show Kian Tajbakhsh among a group of defendants associated with Iran’s reformist movement and accused of conspiracy to foment a “velvet revolution” in Iran.  The pictures show Kian seated directly behind Said Hajjarian, a reformist ideologue and a principal defendant in Tuesday’s trial.  The coupling of Kian, a secular Iranian-American academic, with the leaders of the Islamist reform movement of Iran is alarming. Dressed in blue prison pajamas and brown plastic slippers Kian looks thin and depressed. His vacant gaze and apparent disorientation captured in the video clippings broadcast by Iran’s official news agency makes reading the trial transcripts devastatingly sad. 

Kian Tajbakhsh has not been allowed to consult with an attorney of his choice.  The collective indictment presented on Tuesday Aug. 25 is devoid of credible evidence against Kian. Instead, “confessions” of the defendants against themselves and their co-defendants are offered. The tortured and terrorized faces of the defendants leave no doubt about the horrific conditions under which the “confessions” have been obtained.  So far, the public presentations of the tortured confessions have provoked disgust and anger in Iran. Clearly, the Iranian public does not believe these so called confessions.  Even some of Iran’s high-ranking clerics with close ties to the ruling circles have condemned these confessions. So why does the government insists on parading the tortured bodies and souls of the accused?

The text of the collective indictment contains half a dozen sentences directly related to Kian Tajbakhsh. In those statements he is accused of having been raised outside Iran and is blamed for his parentage, his limited knowledge of Iran’s dominant religious practices, and for an unsubstantiated report of his having discussed a book with Hajjarian. The strongest accusations appear in a separate indictment directed at Kian alone in which he is charged with espionage. The personal indictment accuses Kian of membership in a listserv that is run by Gary Sick of Columbia University. The indictment goes on to identify Sick as a CIA agent. Kian is also accused of being a consultant for the Soros Foundation in Iran.  The indictment goes on to characterize the Soros Foundation as a satellite institution of CIA that is devoted to instigation of “velvet revolutions” in Iran and around the world.

Clearly, there is no evidence that connects Kian Tajbakhsh with the serious charges of espionage and conspiracy to create a “velvet revolution” in Iran because Kian has never been involved in such activities.  Kian is an American citizen of Iranian heritage. He is a secular intellectual, a sociologist and an independent scholar. He is not attached to any political organization or movement inside and outside the country. His accusers know this.  The US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has repeatedly demanded Kian’s release and has publicly denounced the false accusations leveled against him.   Yet as the post election crisis in Iran grows and the political rift within the Islamic Republic’s leadership deepens, the role his accusers have assigned to Kian in this diabolic scenario grows as well.

Kian’s friends are worried about his physical and emotional health and want to see him released immediately. Kian is a beloved son, father, husband, teacher, colleague and friend.  Those who love him are pained to see him used as a pawn in a power struggle with which he has no connection. We want to see Kian free to leave Iran so that he can continue his life and academic career in safety.



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