TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s confirmation Sunday that it has detained a fourth Iranian-American – a peace activist from California – seems certain to further rile relations between the two countries, already tense over Iran’s nuclear program.
The United States has criticized the detentions, but Iran insists America has no right to interfere.
Mohammad Ali Hosseini, the spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, confirmed at his weekly news briefing that Iranian-American Ali Shakeri is being held.
On Friday, the semiofficial ISNA news agency first reported the detention and investigation of Shakeri, of Lake Forest, Calif., by the security department of the Tehran prosecutor’s office.
Shakeri, a founding board member of the University of California, Irvine, Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, is the fourth dual citizen detained in Iran in recent months.
Iranian officials previously confirmed the detentions of three other Iranian-Americans: scholar Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant with George Soros’ Open Society Institute; and Parnaz Azima, a journalist who works for the U.S.-funded Radio Farda.
All three are accused of endangering Iran’s national security and of espionage, according to a judiciary spokesman. It is not known whether Shakeri has been accused of specific wrongdoing.
They were in Iran visiting family or working, according to the State Department, relatives and employers.
President Bush has demanded that Iran “immediately and unconditionally” release them, and has denied that they were spying for the United States.