New York Times: An Iranian intelligence official said Monday that two prominent doctors jailed since June were among four men sent to prison on charges of plotting against the Iranian government with the suspected backing of the United States, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported.
The New York Times
By NAZILA FATHI
Published: January 19, 2009
TEHRAN — An Iranian intelligence official said Monday that two prominent doctors jailed since June were among four men sent to prison on charges of plotting against the Iranian government with the suspected backing of the United States, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported.
Fars quoted the unidentified official as saying, “Among the four key elements in this case were two doctors named Arash and Kamiar Alaei.”
The two men, who are brothers, are well-known doctors who founded the country’s first HIV-prevention program.
Iran said last Tuesday that it had tried four men for attempting to overthrow the government with the support of the United States, but it did not disclose their identities or give any information on when they had been arrested and tried.
The official said Monday that “tens” of people were involved in the plot to overthrow the government but that the judiciary arrested only four main leaders. “They purposely cooperated with American intelligence agents in the region and implemented their requests in detail,” the official said of the four men, according to Fars. He did not identify the other two men.
The official said the ring was involved in provoking street demonstrations and ethnic unrest in different parts of the country. He said the ring had also picked Iranians from various professions, including fashion designers, doctors, athletes, clerics, artists and professors, and invited them to go to the United States “in groups of 10 or 15.” He added that the intelligence ministry was not convinced that all those who went to the United States were involved.
“Americans tried to influence them during these trips and convince them that America was the only savior of our people,” Fars quoted the official as saying. “Their purpose was to create distance between people and authorities so that when they came back they would put pressure on the government.”
He added that the training centers were in the United States and that they “sometimes used journalists too,” Fars said.
The arrests appeared to be part of a crackdown on activists and opposition figures ahead of the presidential elections in June. Mohammad Khatami, the reformist former president, said last week that he would run, posing a serious challenge to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose popularity has been falling because of his government’s poor economic performance.
Authorities jailed three scholars in 2007 on similar charges of trying to overthrow the government but later released them. One of them was Iranian-American academic Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.