updated 7/10/2007 8:19:38 PM ET 2007-07-11T00:19:38

Iran's judiciary has launched new investigations into the cases of two detained Iranian Americans charged with endangering national security, citing fresh evidence, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The investigations into Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh have been broadened, said judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi.

Prosecutors "obtained new evidence in line with the charges brought against them. The case is under investigation," he told reporters, without elaborating.

Esfandiari, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' Middle East program director, was jailed in early May. Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant with George Soros' Open Society Institute, is also held on security charges.

The Wilson Center said later Tuesday it "rejected as totally without merit the suggestion that Iran has discovered new evidence that Haleh Esfandiari ... acted against Iran's national security."

Esfandiari has been held in solitary confinement in Tehran's notorious Evin prison since her arrest and continues to be denied access to her family, lawyers and international organizations like the Red Cross, the Wilson Center said.

"We are deeply disturbed by these new reports from Iran, and by the fact that Haleh remains in Evin prison despite not one shred of truth to any of the charges brought against her," said Lee H. Hamilton, the Wilson Center's director. "We are gravely concerned about Haleh's physical and mental state," he said.

Tajbakhsh, 45, is also being held on security charges.

"In the two months since his arrest, the Iranian authorities have offered nothing to substantiate any allegations of wrongdoing" by Tajbakhsh, the Open Society Institute said in a statement.

"These vague allusions to new evidence in the case against him are equally unfounded," it said.

Others also charged
Two other Iranian Americans, Parnaz Azima, a journalist who works for the U.S.-funded Radio Farda, and Ali Shakeri, a founding board member of the University of California, Irvine, Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, face similar charges.

While Shakeri is in jail, Azima is free but barred from leaving the country.

Family members, colleagues and employers of the four deny the allegations. Esfandiari's husband, Shaul Bakhash, has rejected the charges against his wife as "totally without foundation."

The Iranian Intelligence Ministry accuses Esfandiari and her organization of trying to create a "soft revolution" in Iran to topple the hard-line Islamic regime, similar to the bloodless revolutions that ended communist rule in eastern Europe.

International human rights groups, including the New York-based Human Rights Watch, have expressed deep concern for the health of the detained Americans — especially Esfandiari, who is 67.

Esfandiari was visiting her 93-year-old mother in December when three masked men with knives stole her luggage and passport as she headed to the airport, the Wilson Center says.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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