Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Spy Charge Against Jailed Iranian-American

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The Associated Press

Iran brought new espionage charges against an Iranian-American scholar who was already convicted of spying and sentenced to 15 years in prison in the country's crackdown following disputed presidential elections, a human rights group said Thursday. The move raises the possibility of a harsher penalty against Kian Tajbakhsh, a 47-year-old scholar who was in Iran working on a book when he was arrested from his home nearly five months ago amid security forces' postelection sweep against the opposition. Tajbakhsh was among more than 100 people -- mostly opposition activists and protesters -- put on a mass trial, and last month was sentenced to 15 years in prison for espionage and endangering state security. It is the harshest prison term handed down so far by the court. His family has denied the charges against Tajbakhsh.

Earlier this week, Tajbakhsh was brought before a special security court believed to have been created by the elite Revolutionary Guards to prosecute dissidents, and he was charged with additional counts of espionage, the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said in a statement. The charges were based on emails that Tajbakhsh sent to a list serve called Gulf 2000 list, which includes experts, diplomats and journalists, the group said. Tajbakhsh, a social scientist and urban planner, was the only American detained in the crackdown that crushed giant street protests by hundreds of thousands of people after the June 12 election. The opposition claims the vote was rigged in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His conviction last month came despite calls from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for his release.