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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 November, 2003, 18:02 GMT
Iran challenged over US professor
By Jim Muir
BBC Tehran correspondent

A senior Iranian official has expressed concern over the continued detention of an Iranian-born American professor.

Dariush Zahedi was arrested on suspicion of spying during a summer visit to his family in Tehran.

The hardline judiciary has refused to release him even though he has been cleared of the charges, said Mohsen Mirdamadi, a senior parliamentarian.

International human rights groups and the US State Department have expressed concern over professor Zahedi's fate.

Solitary confinement

Dariush Zahedi emigrated to the United States in his teens.

He is now a political science professor, teaching classes at the University of California.

Like many Iranian-born Americans he returned home in June to visit his family.

He was arrested in Tehran at the request of the intelligence ministry on suspicion of spying.

Zahra Kazemi
There are parallels with Zahra Kazemi's treatment
After a lengthy investigation, the ministry concluded he was innocent and recommended he be freed.

However, according to the head of the Iranian parliament's foreign affairs and national security committee, Mohsen Mirdamadi, the hardline judiciary refused to comply.

He said the judiciary took Professor Zahedi from the intelligence ministry's custody and transferred him to "a parallel intelligence apparatus".

Mr Mirdamadi expressed fears that Mr Zahedi would be subjected to long periods of solitary confinement and other pressures which might force him into a false confession.

Precedent set

He compared the case with that of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-born Canadian who died in July from a blow to the head while in custody after a similar dispute between the intelligence ministry and the judiciary.

Mr Mirdamadi said that by law the ministry alone had the right to investigate and decide on cases of possible espionage.

He said his committee would be taking up Professor Zahedi's case.

The reformist-dominated parliament, and the intelligence ministry which is also largely reformist these days, are already involved in a bitter dispute with the judiciary over the case of Zahra Kazemi's death.

Although the case has gone to trial with an intelligence ministry interrogator in the dock, the parliament has issued a detailed report accusing the Tehran public prosecutor of tampering with evidence and perverting the course of justice.

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