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Iranian-American scholar back home after detention in Tehran

  • Story Highlights
  • Esfandiari returned home Thursday, Woodrow Wilson Center says
  • Husband: Esfandiari will have a medical checkup now that she is back in the U.S.
  • She was arrested on charges of harming Iran's national security
  • She appeared to confess on program that aired on Iranian TV in July
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Haleh Esfandiari, the Iranian-American scholar who was held in Iran for eight months, has returned to her home in Potomac, Maryland, her husband, Shaul Bakhash, told CNN.


Haleh Esfandiari has reunited with her family and returned to the United States.

Esfandiari, 67, was released from a Tehran prison August 21 after her mother posted $330,000 bail. Iranian officials called Esfandiari on Saturday to tell her to pick up her passport, said her daughter, Haleh Bakhash. Esfandiari flew to Vienna, Austria, on Sunday and was reunited with her family.

"These last eight months, that included 105 days in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, have not been easy. But I wish to put this episode behind me and to look to the future, not to the past," Esfandiari said in a statement released by her employer, the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

She returned home Thursday, the center said.

She was reunited with friends, and now that she's back in the United States, she will have a medical checkup, her husband said.

Esfandiari, the director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Middle East program, was detained in December while visiting her ailing 93-year-old mother, who lives in Tehran. She was arrested in May on charges of harming national security and jailed in the political wing of Tehran's Evin Prison.

In July, Iranian television aired a documentary that included jailed Iranian-Americans, including Esfandiari, appearing to confess that they had participated in U.S. efforts to undermine the Iranian government.

The program, "In the Name of Democracy," which aired on IRIB television network, featured Esfandiari and urban-planning consultant Kian Tajbakhsh, whom Iranian authorities arrested in May and charged with trying to topple the government.

Esfandiari's family has said there was no doubt her admissions were scripted.

Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh were picked up the same week as fellow Iranian-Americans Ali Shakeri and Parnaz Azima. Azima is a female journalist based in Prague, Czech Republic, for the U.S.-funded, Persian-language broadcaster Radio Farda; Shakeri helped found the University of California-Irvine's Center for Citizen Peacebuilding.

Like Esfandiari, Azima and Shakeri were detained while visiting their ailing mothers in Iran. Shakeri's mother has since died, according to the University of California-Irvine.

Tajbakhsh, Shakeri and Azima are still being held in Iran.

The United States is also seeking information about Robert Levinson, an American and retired FBI agent, who has been missing since March 8. Levinson was last seen on Iran's Kish Island. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Jill Dougherty contributed to this report.

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