Commentaries

Now raising intellectual capital

Bijan Khajehpour released – an update

Photo
-

bijan-2Iranian economist and business consultant Bijan Khajehpour was freed on bail late on Wednesday after three months in Evin prison, according to his wife. His arrest along with hundreds of intellectuals, journalists and student activists in the aftermath of a disputed presidential election in June sparked international protests.

(Bijan is pictured at centre in court on August 8)

A consultant to leading multinational companies working in Iran, Bijan was reunited with his wife and daughters after they gave a substantial bond to the Iranian authorities. It is not clear whether his case is closed. He was arrested on his return to Iran on June 30 from a speaking tour in Vienna and London, although he was out of the country at the time of the demonstrations against the alleged rigging of the presidential election.

The authorities have never announced the charges against Bijan. He appeared in court among the defendants in the second mass trial of people arrested during the protests, including French researcher Clotilde Reiss and Iranians working for the French and British embassies.

The Iranian authorities often demand the deeds to a defendant’s house or a large cash surety in return for provisional release. This leaves a sword of Damocles hanging over the defendant until the sentence is eventually issued.

West raises stakes over Iran nuclear programme

Photo
-

big-3President Obama and the leaders of France and Britain have deliberately raised the stakes in the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear programme by dramatising the disclosure that it is building a second uranium enrichment plant. Their shoulder-to-shoulder statements of resolve, less than a week before Iran opens talks with six major powers in Geneva, raised more questions than they answer.

It turns out that the United States has known for a long time (how long?) that Iran had been building the still incomplete plant near Qom. Did it share that intelligence with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, and if not, why not? Why did it wait until now, in the middle of a G20 summit in Pittsburgh, to make the announcement — after Iran had notified the International Atomic Energy Authority of the plant’s existence on Monday, after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had delivered a defiant speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday and after the Security Council had adopted a unanimous resolution calling for an end to the spread of nuclear weapons on Thursday?

Obama playing a weak hand with Iran

-

The announcement that the major powers, including the United States, are going to open talks with Iran on Oct. 1 ought to be a source of rejoicing. After all, isn’t this what much of the world has been urging for several years, while the European Union conducted a frustrating, low-key dialogue like the warm-up band at a rock concert?

So why is there so little excitement about the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany sitting down at the table for comprehensive talks with the Islamic Republic?

An update on Bijan Khajehpour

Photo
-

bijan-2

A couple of weeks ago, I drew attention to the arrest of  respected business consultant Bijan Khajehpour as an example of the situation of hundreds of Iranians detained after the disputed presidential election on June 12. At the time, Bijan’s whereabouts, state of health and conditions, as well as any charges against him, were unknown.

We now know that Bijan is being held at Tehran’s Evin prison, where most political prisoners are detained. He was one of the defendants at the second mass trial of people accused of plotting a “velvet coup” to overthrow the regime. The second one-day trial focused on people with contacts with Western countries. Bijan’s company advises many European corporations on doing business in Iran. His client list is a who’s who of international energy, engineering and automotive companies. The German Foreign Minister has called publicly for his release.

Where is Bijan Khajehpour?

Photo
-

Bijan KhajehpourOn June 27, Iranian business consultant Bijan Khajehpour landed at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport on a flight from London. His driver saw him in the arrival lounge. Bijan was paged over the loudspeaker and taken away by security men. He has not been seen for more than a month. He has had no access to lawyers. His wife and two young daughters do not know who is holding him, where or why. He is a diabetic and his family fears for his health.

Khajehpour is one of hundreds of Iranians who have been arrested since protests erupted over a disputed presidential election on June 12 in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was officially declared the winner. Unlike many of those locked up, he is not a political activist, a demonstrator or a journalist. Indeed, he was out of the country, giving talks to business groups in Vienna and London, at the height of the protests.

  •