City Council Approves Letter Urging Iran to Release Detained Alumni
Earlier Version of Berkeley City Council Letter »Click here to read the earlier version of the Berkeley City Council's letter to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Category: News > City > City Council
At its meeting Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council unanimously approved a letter to be sent to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urging the Iranian government to expedite the release of three UC Berkeley alumni charged with espionage.
The letter asks Ahmadinejad to "achieve maximum leniency" for Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal and Sarah Shourd, who have been held in Iran for more than six months.
A statement in an earlier version of the letter stating that Iran had the right to detain the alumni was later removed by the letter's author, Councilmember Kriss Worthington.
"We do not agree with the decision to further detain these three young Americans, though it is well within the rights of Iran to do so," the earlier version said.
But Worthington said he still believes Iran had the right to initially detain the alumni.
"What we meant was that it was well within their rights to detain them in the beginning for questioning," Worthington said. "But part of the problem we have now is that they've been detained for months and prevented from calling their parents."
The council unanimously approved the letter after brief discussion.
Councilmember Gordon Wozniak said at the meeting that Berkeley could be well-suited to make the appeal for the alumni's release.
"There are quite a few members of the government in Iran who were educated in Berkeley," he said. "So I think it's important that the letter come from the city."
The three Bay Area residents were arrested after allegedly crossing the Iran-Iraq border July 31 and were charged with espionage Nov. 8.
"It has been reported that the trio had no intention of entering Iran," the letter reads. "As such, we can only hope that the trio not be detained any longer for the alleged mistake of crossing over the Iran-Iraq border."
Although council letters to foreign countries are normally written in English no matter the receiving country's language, Worthington said this letter's significance and possible impacts warranted translation into Farsi, a Persian language widely spoken in Iran.
But the process of translating the letter was slow, he added.
"We could have had it a month ago if we hadn't done it this way," Worthington said. "But sending it in their own language would be a sign of respect."
Worthington also said he hopes the council's intentions and history of goodwill towards the Middle East will further aid the alumni's release.
"Coming from a peace-loving city that has spoken out against attacking their city and region might get them to actually read it," he added.
The approval of the letter comes after further information regarding the conditions of the alumni was released by two Belgian bicycle tourists who were held for three months at the same prison and released in December, according to The Oakland Tribune.
The tourists, Van den Bosch and Vincent Boon Falleur, report that the alumni were being held in solitary confinement.
Sarah Springfield covers city council. Contact her at [email protected]
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