PHILADELPHIA -- An Iranian legal scholar has been released from custody after being detained by Iran for several months as he awaited U.S. visa clearance to travel to Philadelphia as a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Mehdi Zakerian, an assistant professor of human rights at an independent university in Tehran, was released on bail several weeks ago, but the Iranian government has not returned his passport to him.
"Our invitation to him remains open, and we are hopeful that we will be able to welcome Professor Zakerian to Philadelphia in the near future,” Michael Fitts, Penn Law dean, said. “Our students and faculty would appreciate immensely the opportunity to interact with someone who is on the front lines of protecting human rights.”
The Iranian government has charged Zakerian with espionage, and he is scheduled to go to trial on the charges.
“I hope that he will be able to join us at Penn in the near future, and we are working to make that possible,” Bill Burke-White, Penn Law professor and an expert in international law, said.“ If Zakerian were allowed to travel soon, he would be able to join the Penn Law community as early as this spring.”
Penn President Amy Gutmann and Penn Law were joined by the non-governmental organizations International League for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch in calling for Zakerian’s release.
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, Zakerian was a fellow at the Hague Academy of International Law in the Netherlands.