WASHINGTON (AP) _ The State Department accused Iran on Friday of detaining at least four student activists and called for their release.
``The Iranian regime's continued efforts to suppress freedom of speech and assembly make clear the hollowness of professed openness to peaceful dialogue and debate,'' spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.
Among those detained, he said, was well-known student leader Ahmed Batebi, who was on parole from a 15-year sentence that resulted from a 1999 crackdown on university students.
In New York, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, Hadi Ghaemi, said several activists had been arrested over the past few weeks and ``we are very much concerned about their whereabouts and what charges are being brought against them.''
Ghaemi also said he believed they did not have access to their families or lawyers.
Also, Ghaemi said, a former member of Iran's parliament who also defended human rights, Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoiniha, has been detained since June 12 with no charges brought against him.
``We believe he is being held in solitary confinement with no access to his lawyer,'' Ghaemi said. ``We are concerned that he is being ill-treated and forced to make false confessions.''
And a month ago, the Human Rights researcher said, a detained student Akbar Mohammadi died in Tehran's Evin prison under suspicious circumstances.
The State Department said that, besides Batebi, student activists Abofazl Jahandar, Kheirollah Derakhshandi and Jamal Zaher-Poor, among others, had been detained in the past few days.
``The United States is deeply concerned,'' McCormack said. He called for the release of all those imprisoned in Iran for defending human rights.