Grad student released from prison in Iran

Danielle Directo

Communications grad student Esha Momeni was released by the Iranian government Monday after spending nearly a month in jail.

Momeni was released from Evin prison at 5 p.m. in Tehran after the deed of her parents’ home was taken as bail, according to Change for Equality.

The student had been kept in solitary confinement in Section 209 of the prison since Oct. 15.

‘She is in good spirits, she’s okay, she just lost about ten pounds,’ said Dr. Nayereh Tohidi, professor and chair of Gender ‘amp; Women’s Studies, who was told by friends of Momeni in Iran.

In an e-mail, Momeni’s friend, Hassan Hussain, said the student ‘is catching up on what has been happening all this time.” Momeni is due to return to the United States next week.

Momeni is being charged with ‘propagandizing against the regime,’ Tohidi said.’ BBC Persia previously reported the student was being charged with ‘acts against national security,’ according to Iranian Judiciary spokesperson Alireza Jamshidi.

Tohidi said Momeni was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday in Iran, which is 11 and a half hours ahead of Los Angeles.’ As of press time, no sentence had officially been given by Iranian officials.

Tohidi, who is also working the One Million Signatures, the same women’s rights organization Momeni had been featuring in her project, said many activists are arrested and released by the Iranian government.

‘Usually, they don’t keep them (in jail for) more than one month,’ Tohidi said.’ Often times, a trial is set to determine the punishment and a probationary period is given ‘to intimidate the activists’ and keep them from working, said Tohidi.

Harry Hellenbrand, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, said the university is ‘very happy’ that Momeni was released.

‘I’m sure the media coverage had a great deal of effect’ on Momeni’s release, Hellenbrand said.

Tohidi said she was told officials would return some of Momeni’s possessions, such as her camera and clothing, but not the video footage for her project.

‘I doubt that they (will) give her back any of her film,’ Tohidi said, adding that she was told Momeni was denied her request to be returned portions of her footage that officials deemed acceptable.

Grad students and friends of Momeni had been organizing a vigil today to raise awareness of the student’s arrest and encourage her release.

Vigil organizer Anasa D. Sinegal, grad student and part-time professor, said it would continue as planned.

‘We’re still holding (the vigil), it’s going to be more of a celebration of her release,’ said Sinegal.’ ‘We’re also calling for her safe return to Los Angeles so she can finish her degree.’

Tohidi said the vigil, which will take place at 4:30 p.m. in front of Oviatt Library, will also urge Iranian officials to drop all charges against Momeni.

‘We will not rest until Esha is back’hellip; safe and sound,’ Tohidi said.