Iranian Physicians Who Addressed HIV/AIDS Sentenced for Allegedly Plotting To Overthrow Iranian Government
Iranian physicians Arash Alaei and Kamiar Alaei, brothers who implemented Iran's first HIV/AIDS prevention program, on Wednesday received prison sentences of six years and three years, respectively, for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Iranian government, Masoud Shafii, an attorney for the Alaeis, said, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the Times, Iranian authorities have not announced the verdict in the Alaei case, but an unnamed official leaked the outcome of the case. Shafii said he would appeal the verdict within the 20-day time limit.
Iranian authorities have convicted the Alaeis and two other people -- including Sylvia Hartounian, a reproductive medicine specialist -- of participating in a $32 million, U.S.-funded "intelligence war" to prompt civil unrest and revolution in Iran. Shafii, relatives of the Alaeis and other supporters have said the charge is false. According to the Times, the charge against the Alaeis likely stems from a 2006 medical conference they attended in Washington, D.C., that was funded by the Department of State and addressed HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other medical topics. The Iranian government was aware of the conference, and an Iranian diplomatic outpost hosted a dinner for Iranian professionals who attended the conference, according to the Times.
Jonathan Hutson, a spokesperson for Physicians for Human Rights, reported that unnamed sources close to the trial said Iranian authorities told one of the Alaei brothers that he and his brother would be released if he agreed to a prepared confession in front of a video camera. It is unclear whether either of the Alaeis appeared in a taped confession, the Times reports.
Hutson said it is "shocking to the worldwide scientific and medical communities that [the Alaeis] were ever arrested." He added, "They are not known to be politically active. ... If they were engaged in any kind of warfare, it was only to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS" (Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, 1/22).