Iran detains prominent philosopher

A liberal intellectual has been arrested in Iran, the first detention of a prominent academic since the election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year, state media reported Thursday.

Ramin Jahanbegloo was arrested earlier this week on charges of espionage and violating security measures, the state-controlled IRAN Persian daily newspaper quoted an unidentified Iranian official as saying.

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences said Thursday that the philosopher was arrested April 27 at a Tehran airport and had been supposed to arrive in Hungary on May 3, as part of a European trip that would have included stops in Austria and Poland.

"The academy asks that the scientific activities of Ramin Jahanbegloo not be limited by restrictions on his freedom," the academy said in a statement.

Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi, Iran's Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, confirmed Jahanbegloo's arrest and told reporters he would closely monitor what happened to the intellectual.

"When I heard about his detention, I ordered for his case to be followed in a deserving way through legal entities," Saffar-Harandi told the official Irna news agency on Thursday.

The minister did not elaborate on the charges against Jahanbegloo, but said that "Nobody is being detained in Iran because of expression of ideas."

The remark seemed to suggest Jahanbegloo was not taken into custody because of the content of his articles or books, and corroborated the state media reports on security charges against him.

In Hungary, Jahanbegloo was scheduled to participate in a round-table of philosophers, as well as in activities at the Central European University founded by the American financier George Soros.

Jahanbegloo, 46, has studied at the Sorbonne University in Paris and published some 20 books in English, French and Farsi the language spoken by most Iranians.

He headed the office of contemporary studies at the private Cultural Research Bureau in Tehran and has conducted postdoctorate research at Harvard University.

For his books, he has also interviewed several global figures such as the Dalai Lama and American intellectual Noam Chomsky, reports AP.

O.Ch.