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Iran airs episode on two Iranian-Americans held on alleged security charges

Iran's state-run TV channel broadcast a second episode of a program on two detained Iranian-American scholars in which they said they were trying to make the Islamic country "unstable."

"After five months of staying in Iran I concluded that these people and I ... in the name of democracy ... were trying to create a network to lead to very essential changes in the system of Iran," said Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

"It means to make the system unstable," added Esfandiari, 67, one of the two detained Iranian-Americans shown Thursday.

As on Wednesday, when the first, 50-minute installment was shown, Thursday's broadcast was also a montage of disparate quotes from the two detainees, speaking in Farsi in an office or home setting, combined to form what could be interpreted as incriminating statements.

It was not clear when the tape, shown in the two installments, was filmed.

Their relatives, supporters and the U.S. government have called these statements illegitimate and coerced.

Esfandiari was detained in January and has been held largely incommunicado since May except for brief telephone conversations with her mother, whom she was visiting before her detention.

Esfandiari said a representative of the New York-based Soros Foundation had met her and said that "they were interested in supporting sessions of lectures on Iran" - allegedly, a scenario for creating a network of Iranian activists and scholars and their foreign supporters.

"Relations between the U.S. government and research institutes was integrated," said Esfandiari, in what was apparently meant to hint at a U.S. role in influencing Iranian political change.

The second detainee, Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant with Soros' Open Society Institute held since mid-May, said that his organization had a "long-term aim ... to create a gap between the government and nation ... to put pressure on the government to change."

Tajbakhsh, 45, said their aim was to bring a "model of the Western democracy" to Iran after an eventual conflict. He added that Soros' "investments after the collapse of the Soviet Union might have been targeting the world of Islam."

He said the foundation has turned toward countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan.

Much of Thursday's 36-minute program was about political changes in Ukraine, Georgia. In one part, former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that "young Georgian politicians, who swept him from power, were financially supported by the Soros Foundation."

In another part of the video, Ramin Jahanbegloo, a prominent Iranian liberal scholar detained and released on similar charges in 2006, said he regretted what he did. "Now ... I see that my past activities were mostly in direction of interests of enemies of Iran."

It was not clear if the broadcast signaled any change in the cases of detained Iranian-Americans.

Iran has been accused of forcing some detainees to incriminate themselves publicly on television. British sailors detained for two weeks for allegedly entering Iranian waters were freed in April after appearing in videos in which they "admitted" trespassing.

Other people detained in Iran have continued to endure prolonged jail time even after their purported confessions were broadcast on TV.

Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh have been accused of endangering Iran's national security and the Iranian government announced this month that fresh evidence had pushed its judiciary to further investigate their cases. Two other Iranian-Americans also are being detained inside Iran on national security charges.

The two-part documentary with Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh's statements, titled "In the Name of Democracy," has been promoted on state TV since Monday, and U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said before Wednesday's broadcast that: "Simply, we're appalled by the fact that these innocent people were paraded on Iranian state television."

"The Iranian government should focus on making sure that these people are reunited with their families as soon as possible," he said. "These are people who pose no threat to the Iranian regime. They pose no threat to the Iranian people.

Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh have been held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison.

A written statement Monday by the Woodrow Wilson Center said any "confessions" made by Esfandiari have no legitimacy and that "any statements she may make without having had access to her lawyer would be coerced and have no legitimacy or standing."

The Open Society Institute also said in a statement Monday it was "disheartened by the Iranian government's decision to stage television footage of coerced statements" made by Tajbakhsh and Esfandiari.

Meanwhile, head of Iran's parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, told state-run radio that the detained Iranian-Americans' "confessions" proved they planned to repeat Eastern Europe's velvet revolutions in Iran, with U.S. financing.

"We hope that the Americans and intelligence departments ... will learn that Iran has enough capabilities to detect any plot and undertake corresponding reaction," Boroujerdi said.

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