Wed, Aug 22, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Iran frees detained US academic after paying a hefty bail

AP , TEHRAN

A detained Iranian-American academic accused of conspiring against the government has been released from a Tehran prison after a hefty bail was posted for her, a top judiciary official said yesterday.

Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has been jailed at Tehran's Evin prison since early May on charges of acting against national security.

"She was released about 30 minutes ago after the bail of 3 billion rials [about US$333,000] was posted," said Mohammad Shadabi, an official at the Tehran prosecutor's office.

However, Esfandiari's whereabouts were not immediately known.

The Woodrow Wilson Center said it has been informed that Esfandiari was being released on bail and that her cousin in Tehran planned to pick her up, but the center did not have any official comment yet on the release.

Earlier yesterday, Esfandiari's husband, Shaul Bakhash, said that Esfandiari's mother in Tehran got a call from an Iranian judiciary official in the morning informing her of the decision to release Esfandiari. Fanny Esfandiari used the deed to her Tehran apartment to post bail, Bakhash said.

Esfandiari was expected to return to her mother's home, the husband said.

"I feel extremely good. It has been a very anxious several months. Now we hope she will not only be released from prison but allowed to come back home," Bakhash said from his home in Potomac, Maryland.

It was not immediately clear if Esfandiari would be allowed to leave the country.

"I can't say for now that she will be allowed to leave the country or not," Shadabi said.

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