American freed in Iran says he is innocent

An Iranian-American businessman on Sunday said he spent more than two years in a Tehran prison despite being innocent.

Tehran: An Iranian-American businessman on Sunday said he spent more than two years in a Tehran prison despite being innocent, simply for handing over USD 200 in
cash to a man in Iran that an acquaintance in the United States had given him.

Reza Taghavi, 71, spoke a day after Iranian authorities released him from Evin prison in the country`s capital, where he spent the past 29 months on suspicion of ties to an allegedly violent opposition group.

The group, known as Tondar, was implicated in a 2008 bombing of a mosque in the city of Shiraz that killed 14 people.

Taghavi, who has not been charged, denies knowingly supporting the organisation. He said Television News that he "brought the money here without knowing anything about it."

"After a month I was arrested for that, because those people were the terrorists, who bombed the mosque," in Shiraz, he added. Iran had accused Taghavi of passing the cash to an Iranian man tied to Tondar. Taghavi, who regularly visits Iran to conduct business and see family, had received the money in California with instructions to pass the cash to an Iranian, according to his lawyer, Pierre Prosper.

Prosper yesterday told The Associated Press that Taghavi "admitted to nothing and he continues to maintain his innocence." Iranian officials are "comfortable that he was in fact used by this organisation, and comfortable that he does not pose a threat to them and that he can leave and go back to the United States," Prosper said.

Taghavi said prison authorities at Evin did not mistreat him and "didn`t do anything wrong to me." Taghavi is to travel later on Sunday to Shiraz, a trip apparently set as a condition for his release, and talk with the victims of the bombing. He is expected to return to California later in the week.

Hours after his release, none of Tehran media, websites or officials carried reports about him or commented on his case. His wife, Mahnaz Taghavi, was overjoyed. "I am the
happiest woman in the whole world since I got my husband back, and thank God he is healthy and I love him," she said.

Bureau Report

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