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Lawyer for released Iranian-American scholar says charges still pending

[JURIST] A lawyer for recently released Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari [WWC profile; JURIST news archive] said Wednesday that national security charges are still pending against Esfandiari and that a trial is expected. Esfandiari was released from Iranian custody on bail [JURIST report] Tuesday, but human rights lawyer and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi [advocacy website, in Persian] said that although Esfandiari has a right to leave the country, the scholar's US and Iranian passports have not been returned to her. Esfandiari serves as the director of the Middle East program at the US-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which welcomed her release [statement, DOC] Tuesday. Wilson Center Director Lee Hamilton told the media that his organization had received correspondence from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's office which indicated that Khamenei would take steps to "deal with [the] issue" of Esfandiari's release. The US State Department has also said that Esfandiari's release is an encouraging sign, but renewed calls for the unconditional release of US citizens detained in Iran [VOA report].

Esfandiari was detained in May [WWC timeline, DOC; WWC materials] and is accused of being involved in an alleged plot "against the sovereignty of the country." Still in custody is Open Society Institute consultant Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh [OSI press release], though OSI Tuesday expressed hope that Tajbakhsh would soon be released [press release]. The two scholars are alleged to have been involved in a plot against the government and prosecutors said earlier this month that they have completed their investigation [JURIST report] into the two detainees. Prosecutors in June expanded [JURIST report] their investigation into the alleged conspiracy after they said they found evidence supporting charges of endangering national security. Ebadi has accused the Iranian government of interfering in judicial affairs to prevent Esfandiari's release [JURIST report] and of denying lawyers access to Esfandiari [JURIST report]. AP has more.

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