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Penn Law and Human Rights Groups Seeking Release of Iranian Scholar Mehdi Zakerian
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September 23, 2008 , Volume 55, No. 5

The University of Pennsylvania Law School and two human rights groups—International League for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch—are calling on the government of Iran to release an Iranian legal scholar scheduled to teach in the United States.

Dr. Mehdi Zakerian, an assistant professor of human rights at an independent university in Tehran, was reportedly detained in Tehran by the Iranian government in mid-August while he awaited US visa clearance to travel to Philadelphia as a visiting scholar at Penn according to Iranian Human Rights Voice, which reported that he has been “in a ministry of intelligence detention center.”

The Iranian government has not released any information about his location or condition and no formal charges have been brought against him.

“Professor Zakerian is a leading scholar on human rights in the Islamic world,” said Penn Law Dean Michael A. Fitts. “His scholarship is at the forefront of international and human rights law, and we remain hopeful that we can welcome Professor Zakerian to our classrooms.”

Dr. Zakerian is “one of the leading thinkers on human rights in the Middle East whose writings have helped us all better understand the relationships between human rights and Islam,” said William Burke-White, Penn Law professor and an expert in international law. “Professor Zakerian’s detention appears to be part of a broader crackdown on independently-minded academics at leading institutions across Iran.”

Dr. Zakerian is chairman of the Iranian International Relations Society and a senior researcher at the Center for the Strategic Studies of the Middle East. He is the editor of the journal International Studies, which is published quarterly in both Farsi and English and devoted to international affairs and human rights. In 2002, Dr. Zakerian was a fellow at the Hague Academy of International Law in the Netherlands.

Almanac - September 23, 2008, Volume 55, No. 5