Iran Detains American Woman as Spy…Picked up around Armenian border…found with recording mic in teeth
By WILLIAM YONG and ALAN COWELL
Published: January 6, 2011
TEHRAN — Two state-controlled media outlets reported Thursday that Iranian authorities had arrested a 55-year-old American woman who entered the country from Armenia for spying, after finding a microphone in her teeth.
The accuracy of the accounts — by the newspaper Iran and the semiofficial Fars news agency — could not immediately be verified, and the Iranian government withheld direct comment. The arrest, if confirmed, would be the fourth of an American accused of spying in Iran’s border areas in less than two years.
The reports identified the woman as Hall Talayan; the Fars report said she was detained a week ago by customs officials at the border town of Nordouz, 370 miles northwest of Tehran. The Iran report said she was trying to enter Iran without a visa.
“The detained American spy told Iranian security officials that she would be killed if Iran extradited her to America,” the Fars report said.
But some people with knowledge of the episode, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for attribution, said there was another, conflicting, account: that the woman had presented herself as an asylum-seeker. In that version, the woman told the customs officials of the spy tool in her teeth and said that she would be killed if she returned to Armenia.
The Iranian authorities are still holding two United States citizens, Shane M. Bauer and Joshua F. Fattal, both 28, who were arrested in July 2009 while on what was described as a hike in Iraqi Kurdistan, near the Iranian border. A third hiker, Sarah E. Shourd, 32, was freed on bail in September.
In late December, Iran allowed relatives to visit two German journalists who were detained in October as they presumably sought to report on the widely publicized case of an Iranian woman who could be stoned to death for adultery.
There was no immediate comment from Armenian authorities about the latest reports. The Associated Press said the American Embassy in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, was closed for the Armenian Christmas.
Reformist Is Reported Arrested
TEHRAN (Reuters) — A prominent Iranian reformist and former education minister has been arrested, opposition Web sites reported Thursday.
The reformist, Morteza Hajji, was arrested Wednesday night and taken to Evin prison in Tehran, the Web site Saham News reported.
Mr. Hajji is close to former President Mohammad Khatami and served as education minister during Mr. Khatami’s first term as president.
William Yong reported from Tehran, and Alan Cowell from London.