Emil Sanamyan's articles on Armenian-Americans, Armenia and its neighborhood.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Iranian ambassador hopeful about Silva Harotonian appeal

by Armenian Reporter staff
Published: Wednesday July 01, 2009


YEREVAN - At a news conference in Yerevan on July 1, Seyed Ali Saghaeyan, the Iranian ambassador, said he was hopeful that the Iranian court hearing Silva Harotonian's appeal would make a favorable ruling. Reports citing the Armenian-language translation of ambassador's remarks [in response to a question from Mediamax news agency] were carried by several news agencies in Armenia.

While noting that it was up to Iran's judiciary to make a decision on the case, Mr. Saghaeyan expressed hope that the appeal for clemency launched by Ms. Harotonian's lawyers would be reviewed positively.

Ms. Harotonian, an Iranian citizen of Armenian descent, worked as an administrative staffer for a medical project run by the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), an organization sponsored by the U.S. government, when she was arrested just over a year ago. She was reportedly coerced into a false confession of having worked against the Iranian government, on behalf of the United States, and earlier this year sentenced to three years in prison.

Meanwhile, a source familiar with the case told the Armenian Reporter that three Iranian men tried and imprisoned along with Ms. Harotonian have been released temporarily from Tehran's Evin prison. According to the source, the three were released because of overcrowding at the prison after the postelection arrests of protestors and were expected to report back.

U.S. officials have said the charges against Ms. Harotonian, were "baseless" and there have been reports that her health has deteriorated in prison.

Ms. Harotonian's case has also been embraced by leading human rights organizations. On June 30, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch cosponsored a press conference on the subject in New York.

Speaking in New York, Klara Moradkhan expressed hope that the recent crackdown in Iran would not negatively affect her cousin's case.

"Silva's imprisonment from the beginning was a misunderstanding. We never thought her situation now has anything to do with what's going on" with the protests, Reuters quoted Ms. Moradkhan as saying.

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