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US concerned by detention of academic in Iran

US concerned by detention of academic in Iran

The United States on Tuesday expressed grave concern about the detention and interrogation in Iran of a prominent American academic, an incident that has led the National Academies of Science to suspend educational exchanges with Iranian institutions.
Amid growing tension with Iran over its nuclear program and alleged support for extremists, the State Department said Iran's treatment of Glenn Schweitzer, head of the academies' Eurasia program, earlier this month was "yet another example of the Iranian government's refusal to abide by international norms."
"We are particularly concerned about this incident," said Nicole Thompson, a department spokeswoman. "We take events such as these very seriously."
"We once again urge the government of Iran to stand by its public statements and fully support scientific and academic exchanges that foster greater mutual understanding between the Iranian and American people," she said. "We do not believe that the Iranian people should be further isolated by the irresponsible actions of the government."
Schweitzer, who has visited Iran frequently in the past without incident and was in the country with a valid Iranian visa in his U.S. passport along with other American scientists, was detained on Dec. 4 in his Tehran hotel room and questioned for three hours by men claiming to be Iranian security officials, the National Academies of Science said.
Two days later, Schweitzer was again detained and interrogated for six hours during which the men "threatened that (he) would not be allowed to leave Iran and stated that exchange scientists were not welcome in Iran," the academies said in a statement. Schweitzer was later released without explanation and allowed to leave the country.
"This action was a very serious breach of the understandings by which the U.S. National Academies have sponsored and encouraged scientific exchanges with Iran," the statement said.
William Skane, a spokesman for the academies, said exchanges have been suspended until Iranian authorities offer assurances of the safety of participants in such programs. He said Iran had not yet responded to their request for those assurances and that it remained unclear exactly who Schweitzer's interrogators were.
Also on Tuesday, the State Department renewed its condemnation of "harassment" by Tehran of Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, whose private law office it said was raided by authorities on Monday, a week after her Center for Protecting Human Rights was closed down.
"We urge the Iranian authorities to allow human rights activists and civil society organizations to operate free of oppression," spokesman Gordon Duguid told reporters.
Ebadi, a lawyer and human rights and democracy campaigner, won the Nobel prize for efforts that included promoting the rights of women and children in Iran and worldwide. She is the first Iranian and Muslim woman to win the award.
Before the raid on her center, the group had been planning to present an award to dissident Taqi Rahmani, who spent 17 years in jail after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.