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Prominent Iranian literary translator missing, source says

From Azadeh Ansari, CNN
updated 8:28 PM EDT, Tue July 3, 2012
Mohammad Soleimani Nia, 40, hasn't been seen since he responded to a call from authorities last Wednesday.
Mohammad Soleimani Nia, 40, hasn't been seen since he responded to a call from authorities last Wednesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mohammed Soleimani Nia hasn't been seen since Wednesday, a source says
  • He disappeared while responding to a call from authorities, the source says
  • Earlier this year, Soleimani Nia was detained on unknown charges
  • He was held at Iran's notorious Evin Prison, and released in May

(CNN) -- A prominent Iranian literary translator is missing, just weeks after being released from Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, a source close to him said Monday.

The individual said Mohammad Soleimani Nia, 40, hasn't been seen since he responded to a call from authorities last Wednesday to retrieve personal belongings that had been confiscated. He was to pick up items, including his driver's license, computer and passport at an office near Evin Prison.

The source gave this chronology of events leading up to his disappearance:

-- In late November 2011, Soleimani Nia was questioned by security and intelligence officers. Friends and family aren't sure of the motive behind that questioning, because phones are monitored in Iran and Soleimani Nia was tight-lipped about the experience, which resulted in his being barred from leaving the country.

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-- On January 10, officials called him to the Revolutionary Court. The court hears cases of smuggling, blaspheming, inciting violence or attempting the overthrow of the Iranian government.

-- After arriving at court, Soleimani Nia was accompanied by security guards to the home he shares with his parents in Karaj, outside Tehran. The guards searched the house, seizing electronic devices and documents, and prohibited Soleimani Nia from speaking to his parents.

-- Soleimani Nia was then detained on unknown charges, then released on bail in May. He was freed after agreeing to suspend a hunger strike after 28 days. During part of that time, he reportedly was held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, notorious for its harsh conditions.

This, the next chapter in Soleimani Nia's on going saga, has many people close to him deeply concerned.

"We don't even know if he made it (to the office near Evin Prison) or if he was just kidnapped as soon as he left the house," the source said. "This is very disturbing. To this point, no authorities have taken responsibility regarding this and we don't know where he is."

Associates have previously described Soleimani Nia as being physically delicate.

Firoozeh Dumas, an Iranian-American author whose best-selling book "Funny in Farsi" Soleimani Nia translated for the Iranian audience, described her friend as "a very gentle soul" and "a model citizen, who loves his country, his family and culture."

"Mohammad Soleimani Nia is also the most nonpolitical person I have ever met," Dumas said.

"He translated 'Funny in Farsi' simply because he wanted to share with his fellow Iranians a book that he had enjoyed in English," she said.

Soleimani Nia also is considered a tech pioneer by his peers; he is credited for launching an Iranian social networking website comparable to LinkedIn called U24, a portal for Iranian professionals seeking jobs.

"Given the high unemployment rate, he should be celebrated for his desire to help the Iranian economy. If he lived in America, he would be called a nerd. In Iran, he's a prisoner," Dumas said.

CNN tried calling the spokesman for the Iranian foreign minister but has yet to receive an official response regarding Soleimani Nia's case.

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