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Husband of Scholar Held in Iran Seeks Her Release

Shaul Bakhash, the husband of American scholar Haleh Esfandiari, is working through media and diplomatic channels to seek her release from Iran. Esfandiari is spending her 15th day in captivity there, accused of spying.

"We've had a great outpouring of international support for which we are very grateful," Bakhash, a professor of history at George Mason University, tells Steve Inskeep. "We do hope that this international focus will remain. It might move the Iranian government to finally release her and allow her to come home."

Bakhash says he was last in contact with his wife just before she was imprisoned in early May.

"She was always worried because [the Iranian] Intelligence Ministry is opaque," he says. "Already in interrogation they had been intimidating and issued threats."

Esfandiari is able to telephone her 93-year-old mother, whom she was visiting in Iran, about once a day, Bakhash says. But he says the calls are limited to 1 or 2 minutes each.

Esfandiari says, "'I'm OK,' [and] asks about her grandchildren," her husband says. "But that really is about it. Her lawyers have not been permitted access to her."

Bakhash says Esfandiari's detention appears to be part of a recent crackdown on scholars and other intellectuals in Iran.

"The Iranian government is basically criminalizing all scholarly activity and it does cause us great concern that they're intending to take her to trial," he says.

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