Iran General NewsIran denies US-Iranians coerced into talking

Iran denies US-Iranians coerced into talking

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AFP: Iran Sunday denied it forced two US-Iranians detained for harming national security into making televised statements, saying their comfortable surroundings showed the comments were genuine. TEHRAN, July 22, 2007 (AFP) – Iran Sunday denied it forced two US-Iranians detained for harming national security into making televised statements, saying their comfortable surroundings showed the comments were genuine.

Academics Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, who were arrested in May, both appeared to implicate themselves in US efforts for change in Iran in the broadcast, which caused outrage in Washington.

“For those who say that the statements were made under pressure, their appearance shows that they were natural comments,” government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters.

No mention was made in the programme that the two academics are currently jailed or face grave charges of harming national security.

Instead, both were shown in comfortable rooms equipped with potted plants, carpets and, in Esfandiari’s interview, a fridge. The surroundings bore absolutely no resemblance to prison cells.

This was to show that “we are not the kind who use violence with our enemies and opponents. Giving the accused a hard time and pressuring them is not our policy,” Elham said.

Elham also recalled Iran’s treatment of the 15 British sailors detained in March, who were shown on television relaxing in tracksuits, browsing through brochures and playing table tennis.

“A humane, non-violent, behaviour with the accused is part of neutralising psychological warfare,” said Elham.

The US State Department and New York-based Human Rights Watch had expressed concern that coercion was used to force the detainees to make the statements.

The programme, broadcast on Tuesday and Wednesday last week, sought to draw parallels between the case of Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh and the uprisings against governments in Georgia and Ukraine.

Iran has repeatedly protested that the United States has been seeking a “Velvet Revolution” in Iran under the guise of initiatives to promote democracy.

Elham defended the broadcast of the programme and said the case remained entirely in the hands of the judiciary.

“It’s necessary that the nature of a cultural onslaught be exposed. This was required for informing the public. It is nothing people are unaware of. But their beliefs have now been documented by real evidence.”

“Questions concerning the type of crime and whether it is compatible with espionage are a technical and legal matter related to the judiciary,” he said.

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