Tehran frees US businessman held over rebel bomb attack

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The Independent Online

A 71-year-old Iranian-American businessman who has been released after more than two years in jail, has described his first taste of freedom as a blessing "no one can imagine".

Reza Taghavi was released on Saturday from the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran after five rounds of unusual face-to-face talks between Iranian officials and his American attorney – a former US diplomat who ultimately persuaded authorities that his client had no links to a rebel group blamed for a deadly mosque bombing in 2008.

As a condition of his release, Iranian officials required Mr Taghavi to visit survivors of the mosque bombing in the southern city of Shiraz, about 550 miles south of Tehran. This was an apparent attempt by Tehran to press its grievances against Washington.

Last year, Iran hanged three men convicted of a role in the bombing. Mr Taghavi denies any ties to the suspected bombers, who Iran says receive support from the United States and other Western governments.

"Freedom is something so good. No one can imagine. I hope everybody enjoys his freedom," Mr Taghavi said in Tehran, adding that he would return to Iran. "From now on I will try to have control on my activities a little more," he said.

Mr Taghavi lives in southern California, where there is a large Iranian community, and has regularly visited Iran to conduct business and to see his family. He was jailed for passing $200 (£125) to someone suspected of links to a rebel group known as Tondar, which seeks to topple the Islamic system and was implicated in the mosque bombing.

Mr Taghavi was never formally charged and denies knowingly supporting the faction. He told AP Television News that he was given the money by an acquaintance in the United States and "brought the money here without knowing anything about it ... after a month, I was arrested for that because those people were the terrorists who bombed the mosque."

Mr Taghavi said he spent part of his time in Evin Prison in wards that held many detainees from the effort to crush dissent after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009. The American hiker Sarah Shourd, who was released last month, and two Americans detained with her, were also held there.