Sunday, October 18, 2009
Iran tries to make nice with West by releasing Newsweek reporter
Iran's efforts to get along with Western nations continued yesterday when a Newsweek correspondent jailed four months ago during massive protests that followed the disputed June presidential election was released on bail. A pro-government news agency in Tehran said Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian, was freed on nearly $300,000 bail after confessing to charges of propagandizing against Iran and other charges, according to Cable News Network (CNN). Bahari was among 1,000 arrested in the protests that erupted after Iran's election commission said incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad had been overwhelmingly re-elected. Ahmedinejad's main challenger, Mir Hussein Moussavi, claimed the results were fraudulent, prompting the demonstrations. Bahari was one of 100 journalists, reform leaders and former ministers who went on trial in Iran's Revolutionary Court in August, CNN said. Iran's crackdown on the protests was consistent with its belligerence toward Western nations accusing Tehran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear power program. Suspicions about Iran's program were heightened last month, despite the country's denials, when the United States revealed the existence of a secret nuclear enrichment facility near the holy Shiite city of Qom, in north-central Iran west of Tehran. But Iran abruptly changed course on its nuclear program, agreeing to allow international inspectors into the Qom facility and to export nearly all of its nuclear fuel for processing. Newsweek, which has denied that Bahari was engaged in anything but reporting, said Saturday that Iranian authorities did not give a reason why the journalist was released but that "humanitarian considerations were presumed to have played a role in the decision." Bahari, 42, is expecting his first child Oct. 26 and the mother has suffered "health complications," Newsweek said. The magazine also said on its Web site that Bahari's case was raised at recent talks between the United States and Iran in Geneva that resulted in the Qom agreement. Other charges filed against Bahari by Iranian authorities included favoring opposition groups, sending foreign reports to foreign media, disturbing the peace and possessing confidential documents, the Fars news agency reported, CNN said.