TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Two Iranian-Americans accused of conspiring against the government were shown on state-run television for a second time with montages of separate quotes combined to form what could be interpreted as incriminating statements.
Thursday’s broadcast was the second episode of a program on Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, who spoke in Farsi in an office or home setting. The first installment, aired Wednesday, had similar montages of disparate quotes, and supporters of the detainees and the U.S. government have called the program illegitimate and coerced.
“After five months of staying in Iran, I concluded that these people and I … in the name of democracy … were trying to create a network to lead to very essential changes in the system of Iran,” said Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
“It means to make the system unstable,” she said.
Esfandiari, 67, was detained in January. She has been held largely incommunicado since May except for brief telephone conversations with her mother, whom she was visiting before her detention.
The broadcast drew condemnation from the Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute, which Tajbakhsh works for. The New York based group said it was “deeply concerned over Iran’s use of deliberately contrived television footage” of the two. “OSI is saddened by this abuse of their dignity, and disturbed by this attempt to deceive the Iranian public and the world about their activities and their current situation,” the institute said.
Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant with the OSI who has been held since May, said his organization had a “long-term aim … to create a gap between the government and nation … to put pressure on the government to change.”
Tajbakhsh, 45, said their aim was to bring a “model of the Western democracy” to Iran after an eventual conflict. He added that Soros’ “investments after the collapse of the Soviet Union might have been targeting the world of Islam.” He said the foundation has turned toward countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan.
Esfandiari said she had met with a representative of the Soros foundation who said “they were interested in supporting sessions of lectures on Iran” allegedly a scenario for creating a network of Iranian activists and scholars and their foreign supporters.
“Relations between the U.S. government and research institutes was integrated,” said Esfandiari, in what was apparently meant to hint at a U.S. role in influencing Iranian political change.
It was not clear when the program was recorded. Much of Thursday’s 36-minute installment was about political changes in Ukraine, Georgia. In one segment, former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that “young Georgian politicians, who swept him from power, were financially supported by the Soros Foundation.”
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of Iran’s parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, said the “confessions” of the two detainees proved they planned to repeat the revolutions of some Eastern European countries in Iran with U.S. financing. “We hope that the Americans and intelligence departments … will learn that Iran has enough capabilities to detect any plot and undertake corresponding reaction,” Boroujerdi told state-run television.
Iran has been accused of forcing some detainees to incriminate themselves publicly on television. British sailors detained for allegedly entering Iranian waters were freed in April after appearing in videos in which they “admitted” trespassing. Other people have continued to endure prolonged jail time even after their purported confessions were broadcast on TV.
Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh have been accused of endangering Iran’s national security, and the government has said new evidence had pushed its judiciary to further investigate their cases. Two other Iranian-Americans are also being held on national security charges.
On Wednesday, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States was “appalled by the fact that these innocent people were paraded on Iranian state television.”