by Daniel Johnson
Durham PhD student Ehsan Abdoh-Tabrizi has been released from Iranian prison, after almost two years behind bars.
According to friends and reports in the Persian media, he was released on Saturday from the notorious Evin prison and is now with his family in Tehran.
Close friend Afshin Shahi, who is also a postgraduate student at Durham, said: “I spoke to Ehsan yesterday and everyone who knows him is thrilled at the news of his release.
“After months in the infamous Evin prison, Ehsan has been granted an amnesty, and he seems very optimistic about the future.
“Ehsan told me that throughout his difficult days in prison the thought of completing his PhD and the support others have shown him really kept him going.”
Shahi added: “Although the future remains uncertain, we are hopeful that he will be able to return to Durham to complete his studies.”
Ehsan, a student in the School of Government and International Affairs, had been sentenced to five years imprisonment for “insulting the leader”, “having links with foreign elements” and taking part in protests.
The Campaign to Free Ehsan (CFE) was instrumental in bringing his plight into the media spotlight. Initially criticised for its lack of response to the situation, Durham University sent three letters to senior Iranian figures.
University Director of Communications Michael Lavery gave his reaction to the reports: “The University is extremely heartened by reports of Ehsan’s release from prison in Tehran and is seeking verification from Ehsan’s family who we have been in regular contact with since his arrest.
“We will continue to keep our students and staff, many of whom are friends of Ehsan’s, informed.”
Ehsan was arrested and imprisoned in mid-January 2010 at Imam Khomeini International Airport, while visiting family in Iran during the Christmas holidays. It is believed that he was held in solitary confinement for 50 days after his arrest, following demonstrations in the Iranian capital.
His father Hossein Abdoh-Tabrizi has always insisted that his son is totally innocent.
Speaking at the time of Ehsan’s sentencing he said: “Ehsan is not a political person and is only a history researcher. Our understanding is that even the persecutor and judge don’t believe this crime.”
More to follow.