Nearly three weeks after his arrest and subsequent solitary confinement in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Khalaji was released on bail today. In exchange for the monetary value of the bail, Iranian authorities have accepted the deed to the ayatollah's Qom home, Khalaji's personal property and sole personal asset. No formal charges by authorities have yet been filed against him, and no formal statement has been issued. Khalaji's passport remains confiscated, as do his personal papers, books, documents, and computer -- all seized by Ministry of Intelligence agents who violently raided his home on January 12.
Khalaji's release follows a steady campaign of public and media attention since the arrest, including a joint statement issued by the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman and ranking member, and culminating in an Urgent Action Statement last week by Amnesty International calling for Khalaji's immediate release. Khalaji, the father of Washington Institute scholar Mehdi Khalaji, is one of thousands of political prisoners detained in Iran since the June 2009 presidential elections.
According to a recent State Department Human Rights Report, the practice of submitting property deeds to post bail in Iran is not uncommon. The report states, "Prisoners released on bail did not always know how long their property would be retained or when their trials would be held....[Iranian] courts set bail at prohibitively high levels, even for lesser crimes."
Iranian political prisoners released "on bail" are closely watched and prohibited from speaking publicly or participating in any kind of social or political activity. Khalaji could be rearrested at any time, with or without bail or prison sentence.
"We are encouraged and greatly relieved by the news of Ayatollah Khalaji's release from Evin prison," said Robert Satloff, executive director of The Washington Institute, "But the Ayatollah is far from a free man. We continue to await news that the Iranian authorities have restored the personal property and freedom of movement -- universal human rights -- to this respected religious scholar."
Mehdi Khalaji expresses deep personal gratitude to the many supporters both inside and outside the U.S. government whose determined efforts have brought international attention to his father's arrest.