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White House Denounces Iran’s Arrest of Iranian-American Academic

Earlier today, Iran sentenced Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American academic, to 12 years in prison for the “crime” of assisting the dissidents in anti-regime protests earlier this year. The AP reports that Tajbakhsh’s sentence is the “longest prison term yet in a mass trial of more than 100 opposition figures, activists and journalists” since the June election. In response, the White House released this statement, from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:

We express our deepest regret and strong objection that the Islamic Republic of Iran has sentenced Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh to 15 years in prison. Mr. Tajbakhsh poses no threat to Iran or its national security. As an independent and internationally-respected scholar, Mr. Tajbakhsh has dedicated his life to fostering greater understanding between Iran and the international community. He embodies what is possible between our two countries. Our thoughts and prayers are with Kian’s family and loved ones on this difficult day.

Further, we are deeply concerned that Mr. Tajbakhsh may have been forced to stand trial in the revolutionary court without the benefit of his own legal counsel. The right to due process is universal and must be respected. The right to a fair and public hearing is embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the right to legal representation is also guaranteed in Iran’s own constitution, as well as in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. We urge Iran to release Mr. Tajbakhsh as soon as possible.

The statement is all the more significant given the delicacy of ongoing negotiations in Vienna to remove low-enriched uranium from Iran.

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