Shaul Bakhash: Iranians arrest his wife





An Iranian-American academic who works at a Washington-based institute is being held in a notorious prison after being prohibited from leaving Iran for more than four months, the institute and her husband said Wednesday.

Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, was sent Tuesday to Evin prison after she arrived at Iran's Intelligence Ministry for questioning, the center said.

Iran has not confirmed that it is detaining Esfandiari, and officials in Tehran could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

''This is extremely disturbing news,'' said Esfandiari's husband, Shaul Bakhash, in a telephone interview from their home in Potomac, Md. ''I never expected they would jail a 67-year-old woman for no reason whatsoever.''

Her arrest comes as Washington and Tehran are locked in a bitter standoff over Iran's disputed nuclear program and involvement in Iraq. Although the two countries ceased diplomatic relations following the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, tensions between them have escalated sharply in the past year.

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