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Iran charges 2 doctors with Boston ties

January 15, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Two celebrated Iranian AIDS doctors with ties to Boston have been charged by Iran with seeking to overthrow the government, according to the Cambridge-based group Physicians for Human Rights. Dr. Kamiar Alaei, who received his master's degree from Harvard's School of Public Health, and his brother, Dr. Arash Alaei, a frequent visitor to Boston, gained international attention when they helped start a series of AIDS clinics in Iran. They were arrested in June, but little information has been released about the charges against them or the trial that apparently has taken place.

Yesterday, Ali-Reza Jamshidi, an Iranian judiciary spokesperson, said the government had broken up a four-person cell linked to the CIA and the State Department, alleging that the group "recruited and trained people to work with different espionage networks to launch a velvet overthrow of the Iranian government." Jamshidi did not name any of the members of the alleged cell, but Physicians for Human Rights said it has information that the Alaei brothers were among those charged.

The arrest of the brothers has been a major setback for US officials who want to improve relations with Iran through cultural programs and renewed diplomatic ties. The brothers participated in the first-ever official cultural exchange between the United States and the Islamic Republic in 2006, when a group of Iranian doctors visited the United States.

The State Department released a statement this week calling the charges against the doctors "baseless."

"In the past, Iran has used similar charges to falsely accuse and detain civil society activists and Iranians working to enhance understanding between our two countries," the statement read. "We urge the government of Iran to adhere to international norms by ending its policy of arbitrarily detaining its citizens or using charges of violating national security as a pretext for targeting any Iranian citizen."

FARAH STOCKMAN

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