The United States has asked Iran to release Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, who was sentenced Tuesday to “more than 12 years” in prison. Tajbakhsh was convicted, among other charges, of spying and acting against the government. Houshang Azhari, Mr. Tajbakhsh’s lawyer, has said that he will appeal the conviction. Mr. Tajbaksh was arrested following Iran’s disputed June election.
Before his arrest, Mr. Tajbakhsh was scheduled to begin a position as a visiting professor of urban planning at Columbia University. The New York Times has reported that Mr. Tajbakhsh’s connection to the Open Society Institute was a key cause of Tehran’s interest. The Iranian government has accused OSI founder George Soros of “plotting to overthrow Iran’s Islamic system of government in what the authorities call a “velvet revolution.”
It will be interesting to see what, if any, effect this development will have on the talks currently underway in Vienna between Iran, Russia, France and the United States. Hopefully, Mr. Tajbakhsh’s conviction will galvanize U.S. negotiators to assume a much more forceful position on the subject of the on-going show trials, and the prevalence of human rights abuses by Iran’s government.
The United States cannot shrink away from addressing the murder of seventy protesters and the violence perpetrated against prisoners that occurred in the aftermath of the June elections.  The protests in Iran have not stopped, and neither have governmental efforts at repression. In response, the U.S. government must make it clear that it stands with the Iranian people, and roundly condemns the conviction of any Iranians (and Iranian Americans) based on falsified evidence and forced confessions.

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