Iran Uses AIDS Doctors’ Imprisonment as First Test of Obama Administration

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)
Contact: 

Jonathan Hutson, 857-919-5130, jhutson [at] phrusa [dot] org

Iran Uses AIDS Doctors’ Imprisonment as First Test of Obama Administration

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - In the wake of President Barack Obama's inauguration, Iran has
signaled that the espionage trial of two world-renowned AIDS doctors is a
bellwether for the future of U.S.-Iranian relations.

The Washington
Post
reported on Jan. 19 that an unnamed Iranian senior
counter-intelligence official warned the new Obama administration that case of
Dr. Kamiar Alaei and Dr. Arash Alaei exemplifies a "full fledged
intelligence war" between Iran and the U.S.

"If
Kamiar and Arash are engaged in any war, it's the battle against
HIV/AIDS," said Sarah Kalloch, Director of Outreach for Physicians for
Human Rights (PHR). "They traveled the world to share the Iranian model
of HIV prevention, and to learn from other countries about innovations in
infectious disease treatment. Treating AIDS is not a crime-it is good
medicine."

PHR has
learned that despite leaks from Iranian officials over the weekend to the
media, the doctors only learned on Jan. 20 that they had been convicted. Kamiar
and Arash are sentenced to terms of three and six years respectively. They will
serve their sentences in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison.

"The
doctors' trial did not meet standards of due process under international
human rights law or even under the Iranian penal code," said Jonathan
Hutson, J.D., Chief Communications Officer at PHR. "The brothers still
have not been fully informed of all charges against them. Their attorney did
not have the opportunity to examine the accuracy or relevance of certain
undisclosed evidence and thus had no opportunity to rebut the case. PHR is
concerned that the doctors may have been subjected to coercion during their
intensive, six-month interrogation."

Their
attorney plans to file an appeal: he has 20 days to do so. The brothers had
been charged with communicating with an enemy government -- charges which PHR has
labeled illegitimate and politically motivated -- as well as with secret
charges which have not yet been made public.

Over the
past two weeks, more than 2,000 people around the world contacted the Iranian
Mission to the United Nations demanding the Alaeis' release. In
addition, more than 3,100 health professionals from 85 countries have signed an
online petition
demanding their release, which can be viewed at IranFreeTheDocs.org.
Leading physicians and public health specialists and numerous medical and
scientific organizations have publicly
called for the brothers' release
. These include HIV/AIDS and health
experts luminaries such as Global Fund Executive Director Professor Michel
Kazatchkine; Partners in Health co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer; 2008 MacArthur
Foundation Genius Grant recipient Wafaa El-Sadr, MD, MPH; Hossam E. Fadel, MD,
of the Islamic Medical Association of North America; 1993 Nobel Laureate in
Medicine Sir Richard Roberts PhD, FRS; and Ugandan AIDS pioneer Dr. Peter
Mugyenyi.

"PHR
and the thousands of medical and public health practitioners from across the
globe who support Kamiar and Arash are devastated, dismayed and disgusted by
these sentences," said Kalloch. "Persecuting these doctors for
their exemplary public health outreach will put a chilling effect on medical
research, science, and public health in Iran, which will ultimately harm the
Iranian people."

Dr. Kamiar
Alaei is a doctoral candidate at the SUNY Albany School of Public Health in
Albany, New York and was expected to resume his studies there this fall. In
2007, he received a Master's of Science degree in Population and
International Health from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

Dr. Arash
Alaei is the former director of the International Education and Research
Cooperation of the Iranian National Research Institute of Tuberculosis and Lung
Disease. Since 1998, the Drs. Alaei have been carrying out HIV/AIDS treatment
and prevention programs, particularly focused on harm reduction for injecting
drug users.

In addition
to their work in Iran, the Alaei brothers have held training courses for Afghan
and Tajik medical workers and have worked to encourage regional cooperation
among 12 Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. Their efforts expanded the
expertise of doctors in the region, advanced the progress of medical science,
and earned Iran recognition as a model of best practice by the World Health
Organization.

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Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) mobilizes the health professions to advance the health and dignity of all people by protecting human rights. As a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, PHR shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.

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