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October 12, 2011 Patricia Hargrave, Esq. Associate General Counsel Broadcasting Board of Governors 330 Independence Ave., S.W. Washington, D.C. 20237 Dear Ms. Hargrave, I represent Ahmad Batebi and Kourosh Sehhati, both of whom have been contract workers at the Persian section of the Voice of America since 2008 and 2007, respectively. I write to express my concern about my clients’ recent terminations, to ask that this matter be investigated by your office, and to have both clients’ employment at the VOA’s Persian section reinstated. Both clients were political prisoners in Iran, are well connected in Iranian circles, and have never received any disciplinary or negative reviews from the VOA. Mr. Batebi was a journalist and political activist in Iran. A picture of Mr. Batebi holding a bloodied T-shirt of another protester during the 1999 student protests was featured on the cover of The Economist; as a consequence he was in imprisoned in Iran for over 9 years and thus is well known among Iranian dissidents who would benefit from hearing his commentary on VOA. Mr. Sehhati was a student activist leader, and a journalist who published in several Iranian publications. He is also well known in Iran. Websites and newspapers which support the Iranian regime are applauding VOA’s decision to terminate my clients’ employment while Iranian student activists and former political prisoners have expressed disappointment at this decision. We think the significance of this should not be overlooked. To review the relevant history; Mr. Batebi was terminated at the VOA on June 30, 2011, and rehired the next day. Mr Sehhati was told on July 1 that his employment would be terminated, though the termination was not executed. Mr. Sehhati however was terminated on Monday, October 3, without any notice. On Friday, October 7 at 1:30 PM, Jim Kennedy in the Persian section gave Mr. Batebi an inordinately burdensome assignment, presumably assuming he could not finish it so as to be used as an excuse to terminate him. Mr. Batebi did finish the assignment in a timely manner and the next day, Saturday, October 8 at 10:47 PM, he received an e-mail from the contractor, PNN, notifying him that he will be terminated on October 9. Both clients were told that their services are no longer needed while at the same time the Persian section has hired people that my clients maintain are significantly less knowledgeable and experienced in Iranian affairs then they are. Our concern is that the head of VOA’s Persian section, Mr. Ramin Asgard, has terminated my clients’ employment and plans to terminate others for improper reasons and in coordination with Mr. Amir Abbas Fakhravar who is not employed nor formally associated with VOA. Mr Batebi first met Mr. Fakhravar in Evin prison. While in prison, he concluded that Mr. Fakhravar was not imprisoned for political reasons and was witness to Mr. Fakhravar’s cooperation with the prison’s warden and the Iranian intelligence service, which Mr. Batebi maintains used Mr. Fakhravar to work against other prisoners. Since his release, Mr. Batebi has strengthened his view of Mr. Fakhravar based on documentary evidence and on-the-record interviews conducted with numerous former Iranian
Patricia Hargrave, Esq. October 12, 2011 Page Two
prisoners and dissidents. He continues to maintain that Mr. Fakhravar was never a political prisoner nor student leader, that his holding himself out to the public as such is a fraud, and that Mr. Fakhravar’s motives are to discredit legitimate former political prisoners, the reasons for which we believe we know but are not relevant at this time. Others at the Persian section share my Mr. Batebi’s conclusions, something of which Mr. Fakhravar is aware. We know that Mr. Asgard and Mr. Fakhravar first met in 2006 when Mr. Asgard was stationed at the American embassy in Dubai, Mr. Fakhravar first stop after he left Iran on his Iranian government issued passport, and that the two had dinner together on October 3, the day Mr. Asgard terminated Mr. Sehhati’s employment. I also have a witness who can testify that Mr. Fakhravar bragged to him several months ago that he would arrange for his employment and that of his associates, meaning my clients, to be terminated at VOA’s Persian section. Moreover, Mr. Fakhravar has several times posted on Persian internet sites that my clients would be terminated from VOA. From Mr. Fakhravar’s Facebook posting, dated August 25, 2011 (see screen shot, attached): Ahmad and Kourosh will be fired from VOA very soon. They have been fired 3 times so far, but last time Ahmad asked Rudi Bakhtiar to get involved and brought him back to his work, but in the near future they will be fired forever, it will happen very soon and no one can help him, even Rudi will lose her job even if she tries to get on Ahmad’s side. Our team is going to settle on VOA and these intelligence service agents, Ahmad and Kourosh and Dr Sazgara are gone forever. Mr. Fakhravar posted the following on Balatarin, a Persian style Facebook site on October 3 (see screen shot, attached): As of Monday, October 3rd, 2011, Ahmad Batebi and Kourosh Sehhati will be fired from VOA, subsequent to the exposure of Ahmad Batebi's cooperation with the Ministry of Intelligence and Security of the Islamic Republic. An investigative case file was opened by the FBI, in regards to this matter. Batebi began work at VOA in fall of 2008 in the Persian section of VOA, as a contract employee for the government of the United States where he was receiving a median pay of scale of $5000 per month. He and several of his friends were fired." The website removed this posting. See http://balatarin.com/permlink/2011/10/8/2751644; the Persian sentence states that that the posting was of questionable reliability which explains why the page is blank. This material was posted twice more on this site and both times removed: http://balatarin.com/permlink/2011/10/8/2751644; and http://balatarin.com/permlink/2011/10/8/2751682. On October 3 Mr. Fakhravar also posted the same allegations against my clients on the website of the Confederation of Iranian Students (CIS), (an organization he founded) and can be found here: http://cispress.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=854:1390-07-16-01-5426&catid=31:general&Itemid=58. This posting shows Mr. Batebi near the VOA logo. We see that Mr. Fakhravar knew the dates of my clients’ termination and had an interest in publicizing the matter. Further, as an example of our concern regarding Mr. Fakhravar’s motives, on the homepage of CIS (www.cistudent.org) Mr. Fakhravar quotes the following from a 2011 Congressional Research Service report written by Kenneth Katzman, that he “was jailed for five years for participating in July 1999 student riots. CIS, committed to non-violent resistance, is an offshoot of the Office of Consolidation Unity, which led the 1999 riots.”
Patricia Hargrave, Esq. October 12, 2011 Page Three
In response to this report, on September 13, 2011, 102 current and former Iranian student activists both here and in Iran signed a letter sent to Mr. Katzman, disputing the involvement of Mr. Fakhravar and CIS in the 1999 Iranian student protests. Mr. Katzman was asked to keep the identities of signatories confidential for security reasons. Mr. Fakhravar published this letter on the CIS website on September 21 (http://www.cispress.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=820:1390-06-31-01-0501&catid=31:general&Itemid=58). Though the letter itself was translated into Persian, Mr. Fakhravar pasted the names of the signatories, thus making them public with the consequent security risks. Mr. Fakhravar again posted this letter, in English with the names, on October 7: http://wetheiranian.blogspot.com/2011/10/blog-post.html. Mr. Katzman has denied in writing leaking this letter and the signatories names. In a comment on this page: www.balatarin.com/permlink/2011/9/21/2727694, under the name “afakhravar,” Mr. Fakhravar however states: Because these people have violated the obvious and very clear rules of United States of America and tried to spread the false and incorrect things against me, the recipient of this letter has sent me this letter so I can start the relevant persecution against these folks and their nasty action with my official lawyers in the Confederation of Iranian Students. (Emphasis added). On October 5, an Iranian government news site, Kayhan News posted the letter, without the names (see www.kayhannews.ir/900717/2.htm#other211). To date, Mr. Fakhravar’s postings were the only public sources for this letter. I trust you will give this letter its due consideration and that the VOA reinstate my clients, and I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
cc: David Ensor Steven Redisch Ramin Asgard Ahmad Batebi Kourosh Sehhati
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