Tehran, Ottawa 8 May (IPS) Iranian authorities confirmed on Monday the arrest of Mr. Ramin Jahanbaglou, one of Iran’s most prominent scholars, on charges of “contacts with foreigners, including the Monarchists”, according to the Intelligence Minister Hojjatoleslam Qolamhoseyn Ezjeh’i.
His arrest, upon his arrival to Tehran from New Delhi, where he is teaching, sparked an immediate international protest, as the philosopher has also the Canadian citizenship.
In a country fighting for respect of law and freedom of press for more than 100 years, still we have a well-known figure who's arrested without a proper court order or open trial, and they don't even announce that he's been arrested.
“Ramin Jahanbegloo, is being held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, where he is at risk of being tortured”, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said, calling on the Iranian authorities to “immediately release” Mr. Jahanbegloo.
A prominent philosopher who has written extensively on cultural and philosophical topics, Jahanbegloo is director of Contemporary Studies at the Cultural Research Bureau, a private institution in Tehran. His academic writings include more than 20 books in English, French and Persian. He has also written for newspapers and magazines in Iran and abroad.
At a gathering to celebrate International Press Freedom Day, Hojjatoleslam Mohsen Kadivar said Mr Jahanbegloo was one of Iran's philosophical journalists.
The arrest has caused concern about freedom of speech as Iran comes under increasing pressure from abroad, the BBC reported.
"In a country fighting for respect of law and freedom of press for more than 100 years, still we have a well-known figure who's arrested without a proper court order or open trial, and they don't even announce that he's been arrested. This is the height of insecurity and lawlessness."
Mr Kadivar was speaking at an awards ceremony for journalists in Tehran which honoured the writer Akbar Ganji, who has recently been released from jail.
Mr Ganji urged Iranian journalists not to self-censor or keep their newspapers open at any cost.
In Ottawa, a friend of the Iranian-Canadian academic said he has been taken to the prison’s hospital for a medical condition.
“Jahanbegeloo, who was recently arrested and detained in Tehran, has been hospitalized in the prison clinic, not for any mistreatment”, Shahram Kholdi, a Canadian-Iranian who studied under Jahanbegeloo at the University of Toronto, told the “Toronto Star”.
"Ramin is hypoglycemic", said Kholdi, now a graduate teaching fellow at the University of Manchester, England. "That's why he was hospitalized. There was a decrease in his blood sugar".
“The arbitrary arrest of Ramin Jahanbegloo shows the perilous state of academic freedom and free speech in Iran today,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This prominent scholar should be celebrated for his academic achievements, not interrogated in one of Iran’s most infamous prisons.”
The authorities detained Jahanbegloo at Tehran Airport on or around Thursday, April 27. Officials refused to acknowledge his detention until Wednesday 3 May, when Tehran’s deputy prosecutor general, Mahmoud Salarkia, confirmed Jahanbegloo’s detention in an interview with the Iranian Students News Agency.
Also on Wednesday, the conservatives-controlled Fars News Agency quoted the chief of prisons in Tehran Province, Sohrab Soleimani, as saying that Jahanbegloo is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison. Neither official gave any reason for Jahanbegloo’s arrest. An unnamed Judiciary official told the daily Etemad-e Melli that charges against Jahanbegloo “will be announced after the interrogations.”
“Iran’s Judiciary is notorious for coercing confessions by means of torture and ill-treatment”, Stork said. “We hold the Iranian government entirely responsible for Jahanbegloo’s well-being”, he added.
"He is a philosopher of non-violence", Kholdi told the Toronto Star, pointing out he had done his Ph.D. thesis on Mahatma Gandhi. "He has practised what he preached. That is why we were caught off-guard when he was arrested".
Canadians are still haunted by the memory of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died in July 2003 after having been taken into custody in Tehran.
Maryam Aghvami, a Toronto friend, stressed that Jahanbegeloo was not a partisan person. "He wasn’t political at all",she said. "He wasn't affiliated with any group or party. He was into ... very civil and non-violent ways to democracy for Iran. He loves Iran".
Reports that he had been hospitalized led many to fear he might have been mistreated while in custody. Canadians are still haunted by the memory of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died in July 2003 after having been taken into custody in Tehran. A doctor who saw her testified later he had seen unmistakable signs of torture.
News of Jahanbegeloo's arrest emerged after he failed to show up a week ago at a conference in Belgium. Those who know him and are familiar with the approach the Iranian regime has taken toward those it sees as a threat have been walking on eggshells, trying to ensure their comments do not make his situation worse.
Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff (Etobicoke-Lakeshore), a friend of Jahanbegeloo, stressed he must not be seen as a dissident.
"Ramin went back to Iran because he loves his country", he told the Star. "He can't be construed as an enemy of the regime, or in the service of a foreign country. ... It's a million miles from the truth".
He said Jahanbegeloo works for a non-governmental organization that specializes in promoting dialogue between Persian and non-Persian culture.
Jason Kenney, the parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said yesterday he could not reveal any information about the case.
"We are in contact with the Iranian officials. It's a delicate matter," he told reporters. "Canadians can rest assured that this government will actively and appropriately defend the interests of Canadians abroad ... but we're being very careful not to discuss details both for reasons of prudence as well as Privacy Act reasons". ENDS JAHANBAGLOU 8506