Haleh Esfandiari: US-Iranian scholar out on bail

Historians in the News

[Editor's Note: Haleh Esfandiari is the wife of George Mason University historian Shaul Bakhash.]

A detained Iranian-American academic was suddenly released from a notorious Tehran prison Tuesday after spending months behind bars on charges of endangering Iranian national security — allegations her family vehemently denies.

Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, had been jailed in Evin prison since early May after months of interrogation. Her 93-year-old mother used the deed to her Tehran apartment to post bail, relatives said.

“I’m very happy. It was unexpected. I thank all those who made efforts to make it possible for me to go home,” Esfandiari told Iranian television. The footage showed her walking out of the prison and meeting family members in a car on a nearby street.

Mohammad Shadabi, an official at the Tehran prosecutor’s office, said Esfandiari had been released on $333,000 bail, but he could not say whether she would be allowed to leave Iran....

[Lee] Hamilton said he was unsure what prompted Esfandiari’s release but added he had recently received a written response from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office after sending him a letter appealing for her freedom.

[HNN Editor 8/22/07: The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

[After her release] Mr. Bakhash spoke to his wife for the first time since May."She sounded delighted that she was finally out of Evin Prison and is obviously looking forward to coming home," he said. Ms. Esfandiari told him that she had been well treated but had lost weight and had been unwell in prison. Her passport had not been returned to her, so her ordeal was not yet behind her."The end will come when she's able to leave the country," Mr. Bakhash said."We really hope they will allow her to join us soon. We still have some concern as long as she's kept in Iran."]

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