IMAGEW: Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' Middle East program
Ho  /  Reuters
Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the U.S. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' Middle East program, in an undated photograph. Esfandiari has been held at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison since early May.
updated 5/21/2007 3:16:13 PM ET 2007-05-21T19:16:13

Iran on Monday charged a detained Iranian-American academic with seeking to topple the ruling Islamic establishment, state-run television reported.

Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, has been held at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison since early May.

Esfandiari, 67, came to Iran in December to visit her 93-year-old mother and was prevented from leaving the country when she tried to go home.

State TV said she and the Wilson Center were conspiring together to topple the government by setting up a network “against the sovereignty of the country.”

“This is an American-designed model with an attractive appearance that seeks the soft-toppling of the country,” state TV said.

The announcement was the first time Iran said it had officially charged Esfandiari with seeking to overthrow the ruling establishment, a severe security crime. It was not immediately clear when Esfandiari will stand trial or if the trial will be public.

The broadcast said Esfandiari confirmed during interrogations that her center “invited Iranians to attend conferences, offered them research projects, scholarships ... and tried to lure influential elements and link them to decision-making centers in America.”

Earlier this month, Esfandiari’s husband, Shaul Bakhash, denied a conservative Iranian newspaper’s allegations that his wife was a spy and was trying to topple the government.

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