Saturday, January 30, 2010

An open letter to U.S President, Barack Obama, regarding the abuse
of my human rights by one of the world’s leading academic
institutions, Harvard University

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, Ph.D.
January 6, 2010

Dear President Obama:

I write this letter to complain about the egregious and continuing
abuse of my human rights by the venerable institution that is
Harvard University. The nature of the mistreatment and rights
violation perpetrated against me is so appalling and so injurious to
the norms of a free and civilized society that it is bound to shock the
conscience of any decent human being.
As an Iranian-American political scientist and author of several
books and numerous scholarly articles, including in Harvard
Theological Review and Harvard International Review, as well as
dozens of oped articles in The New York Times, Washington Post,
Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, San Francisco Chronicle,
etc., I appeal to Your Excellency to intervene in this matter, just as
you did recently in the matter of false arrest of a prominent African-
American Harvard professor.
As a first generation Muslim immigrant who came to the United
States many years ago hoping to fulfill his dream of life, liberty, and
the pursuit of academic excellence, I assure you that the long, cruel
mistreatment that I have suffered in the hands of agents and
administrators of Harvard University represents a dark page in
America’s treatment of its Muslim minority population. The famed
author and linguist at M.I.T., professor emeritus Noam Chomsky, has
aptly described Harvard’s mistreatment as “a shameful chapter in
American history and at one of its cherished institutions.” Howard
Zinn, the famed historian and professor emeritus at Boston
University, has written, “it is outrageous what they have done to Dr.
Afrasiabi.” Similarly, Mr. Mike Wallace, the now-retired veteran
correspondent for CBS’ “60 Minutes,” who testified as my character
witness in my civil rights action against Harvard University and its
police department, has been quoted in Boston Globe, “I admire Dr.
Afrasiabi. He is an honorable man. The canons of Harvard are lined
up against a pea shooter.”

In addition to Wallace, Chomsky, and Zinn, a number of other
luminaries including the filmmaker and author, Mr. David Mamet,
have publicly criticized Harvard and even some faculty members at
Harvard such as the law professor, Allan Dershowitz, and the
Kennedy School of Government professors Joseph Nye and Mathew
Bunn have also expressed their concerns about my situation --
unfortunately to no avail as the University has continued with its
flagrant pattern of abusive behavior toward me and has refused to
apologize for subjecting me, a former post-doctoral research scholar
at Harvard, to a retaliatory false arrest and incarceration, public
defamation, and systematic blacklisting not only at Harvard but also
elsewhere in the US academia through its vast network, e.g., a
Harvard-graduate-turned vice-president of the Middle East Institute,
Mr.David Mack, unilaterally withdrew my scholarship at the Institute
solely on the basis of his affiliation with Harvard. Both professors
Chomsky and Zinn and Mr. Wallace have written letters of concern
to the Middle East Institute in Washington, urging them to treat me
with respect, without ever receiving any response.
To elaborate on the nature of my conflict with Harvard, in 1995 I had
threatened legal action against a Harvard professor by the name of
Roy Mottahedeh by hiring an attorney, Mr. Kevin Molloy, who had
sent a letter to him warning of my intention to sue him for
defamation if Mottahedeh continued with his relentless smear
campaign against me. Also, I had complained against Mr.
Mottahedeh to the ethics committee of Middle East Studies
Association, stating that Mottahedeh had unconscionably lied about
my affiliations with Harvard to Mr. Wallace. Subsequently, Mr.
Wallace would corroborate my allegation in his 1997 letter to the
chief justice of the federal court in Boston, honorable Joseph Tauro,
confirming that he had broken his relations with me after learning
from the former director of Harvard’s Center For Middle East
Studies, Mr. Mottahedeh, that I had never been a post-doctoral
fellow at Harvard and that only later he, Mr. Wallace, had found out
the truth. The Exact text of Mr. Wallace’s letter that has been
entered as evidence in my complaints against Mr. Mottahedeh is as
“Dear Judge Tauro:
I am writing you at the suggestion of Dr Kaveh Afrasiabi. Dr
Afrasiabi served as a consultant to me on matters dealing with Iran,
beginning in March of 1990. I had called him after reading a letter
he had written to the New York Times on the subject of Iran.
After that, he cooperated with me in preparation for a program on
author Salman Rushdie, object of a fatwa by the Ayatollah
[Ruhollah] Khomeini; he also attended two meetings I had with
Andrew Wylie, Mr Rushdie's literary agent.

At the time I dealt with him it was my understanding that he was a
post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University, so I was brought up short
when I heard from Professor Roy Mottahedeh of Harvard that
Afrasiabi had never been a post-doctoral fellow at the university.
That assertion shook my confidence in Dr Afrasiabi and led me to
stop asking for his counsel on things Iranian. Only later did I learn
that Dr Afrasiabi had been in fact a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard.
Since that time he has kept me informed of his various scholarly
activities and it is apparent to me that scholars hold him in high
Yours, Mike Wallace
Correspondent, Co-Producer 60 Minutes, CBS”
Dear President Obama:
Sadly, the evil done against me went much further than vilifying and
defaming me with the members of American media and the
academia, including Oxford University where I had applied for a
scholarship. Such vile behavior proved simply as a prelude for a
much more flagrant assault on my freedom and human dignity in
the form of a retaliatory false arrest by Harvard police shortly after
my complaint and lawful threat of a law suit through my attorney
mentioned above.
Concocting a bizarre fictitious crime story and using two of Mr.
Mottahedeh’s direct subordinates as patsy, the Harvard police
subjected me to a high-profile pre-dawn arrest at my home in
Newton, Massachusetts, pursuant to a warrant that cited five counts
of monetary extortion and death threats. According to the police
report, one of Mottahedeh’s female associates, a young lady from
India by the name of Shobhana Rana, had complained that a man
had extorted $250 on two occasions in broad daylight at Harvard
Square and that the “extortionist” somehow knew that she had
access to the ATM card of another Mottahdeh subordinate, a man by
the name of Reza Alavi, and had demanded money from her in
order to get “revenge,” that the same culprit had later on left
threat notes for both Rana and Alavi at their homes, and that Rana
had not disclosed this to any one until Alavi discovers the
discrepancy in his account and approaches her and finds out what
has happened, contacts the Harvard police and both give the police
my physical description and both identify me as the criminal in a
photographic identification procedure. I have provided a detailed
account of this fictitious crime story and the trumped up charges in
my narrative, “Reading Kafka At Harvard” that is available on the

Dear President Obama:
I was a professor of American politics at University of
Massachusetts, author of scholarly books and several opinion
articles in Boston Globe, among others, at the time of my arrest,
without any criminal record and, yet, I was denied bail and kept in
prison for nine days and the Harvard police and spokespersons from
Harvard University loudly trumpeted in Harvard newspapers, local
and national media, as a “result of serious investigation that took
several months,” claiming that there was “a serious threat to kill”
and that it had taken Harvard police several months to apprehend
me since I had “numerous addresses.”
These were all blatant and outrageous lies intended to smear me
and finish me off in the academia. Within a few weeks of my arrest,
both Rana and Alavi were whisked out of the US, with Mr.
Mottahedeh remaining in the background and hiding behind a tall
wall of denial. A Harvard detective who was the principal
investigating officer, Richard Mederos, even introduced a statement
at the subsequent bail hearing that claimed that while I was in his
custody I had confessed to my crime and had promised that it would
not happen again. The purpose of that (completely false and
fabricated) statement by detective Mederos was simply to prevent
my release and to linger the false charges against me.
Fortunately, Harvard’s sinister plan against me did not succeed and
I was released on a bail after my accuser, Rana, appeared in court
and did not identify me. The whole case against me would have
been dropped that day had it not been because of detective
Mederos’s outrageous lie and the prosecutor’s presentation that
both “victims” had identified me in the photographic identification.
Had it not been because of strong show of support by dozens of my
academic supporters as well as intense media scrutiny, the court
may have appeased Harvard by keeping me behind the bars in spite
of the fact that the main “victim” had not identified me as the
culprit in court. Enjoying the full cooperation of a Cambridge
prosecutor, Harvard and its cronies continued their smear campaign
against me by insisting that an actual crime had occurred and that I
was about to “stand trial,” to quote a headline from Harvard
But, after a Boston Herald story that read “Harvard professor’s
galpal accuses his rival of extortion,” and the diligent effort by my
defense attorney that exposed the flagrant contradictions of the
‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ crime story and the retaliatory nature of the
vile accusations against me, I was cleared of all the criminal charges

at the first pre-trial hearing several months later and a judge stated
on record that “after due investigation, there is no evidence
connecting you to any of these charges.”
Dear President Obama:
As a political scientist, I fully understand that the problem of
misidentification and mistaken arrest has long been recognized in
the American legal system and despite my suspicion of a foul play
aimed to silence me, I was content with receiving a formal apology
from Harvard after I was fully exonerated of any wrongdoing. The
negative publicity surrounding my arrest and incarceration, together
with the university’s open endorsement of the untrustworthy crime
story as legitimate, even though it was insulting to any one with a
modicum of intelligence, proved poisonous for my career as I faced
severe backlashes in the form of losing my job, losing a book
contract, and being treated as an academic pariah. My family life
also suffered and the imposed financial pressures played a role in
the break-up of my marriage. With my career in political science
thus destroyed, I then enrolled as a theology student at a local
seminary, Andover-Newton Theological School, culminating in a
number of scholarly writings that were subsequently published in
books published by Harvard University Press, Chicago University
Press, and Wadsworth.
Instead of apologizing and or issuing a statement of regret, the
Harvard University police chief, sent me a letter on the day I was
exonerated, issuing a no-trespass order and warning me that I
would be subject to arrest if I entered not only the Harvard campus
but also any “property belonging to Harvard.” I replied to the notrespass
letter in the form of a letter in Harvard Crimson, asking on
what ground I had been banned and whether or not this was up to
Harvard’s standards to mistreat one of its former visiting scholars
like that?
After a failed mediation, I commenced a defamation and civil rights
law suit against Harvard and vested my hopes in the promise of
equal justice, only to be rudely awakened to the reality of a
horrendous, Kafkaesque strangulation of the legal system by the
mighty Harvard and its legal representatives. As a result, after
nearly eight years of constant struggle in local and federal courts in
the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I was denied even a token of
justice as I was robbed of justice and the courts made a mockery of
their neutrality by trampling on their rules of conduct and ruling in
Harvard’s favor in spite of compelling evidence of unlawful
misconduct against me on the part of professor Mottahedeh, his
subordinates, and Harvard police. In each case, I appealed the
unfair verdicts to the higher courts, to the commission on judicial

conduct and, ultimately, to the US Supreme Court, that turned down
my appeal in a close vote in March 2003.
Dear President Obama:
In light of your personal background as a graduate of Harvard Law
School, you would probably find it shocking and completely foreign
to your perception of the American legal system that I have endured
such blatant discrimination in the state and federal courts, so
egregious and below the bar of fair play that, indeed, has no better
description than Kafkaesque through and through. Confining myself
to highlighting the main discriminations, suffice to say the following:
· In the federal case, my own attorney, Margaret Burnham, betrayed me by
refusing to represent me on the eve of the trial, despite a signed contract and
full payment of $6000.00. The jury trial of Harvard defendants, accused of
masterminding a conspiracy to silence me, was scheduled to begin on a
Monday and my attorney’s secretary informed me on the phone of Burnham’s
sudden decision on late Friday afternoon. I approached the bench on day one,
showed the judge the contract with my attorney and asked for a postponement
of the trial so that I could procure an attorney. Instead of granting my
reasonable request, the judge said, “it’s now or never” thus forcing me to
represent myself against a formidable small army of attorneys from four law
firms recruited by Harvard University. I ask: what judge, lawyer or fair
human being in America can possibly defend that judge’s decision, and the
fact that he discriminated against me by not forcing Burnham to represent me
pursuant to her legal obligation or to grant me a brief postponement?
· Prior to the trial, my initial judge resigned from the case, precisely one hour
after a deadline he had given to Harvard to comply with my discovery requests
or face a verdict. After the defendants failed to comply, instead of displaying
the valor of equal justice, judge Tauro preferred to withdraw himself from the
case, citing a flimsy excuse that he had a conflict of interest with one of the
new attorneys that Harvard had brought on board. I ask: is that justice?
· In my defamation case, my judge dismissed my complaint on the day set for
jury trial, right after giving us instructions on jury selection, with the pool of
jurors waiting in the next room. That judge, Hillar Zobel, dismissed my
complaint by reversing himself on all the evidentiary rulings of a mere nine
(9) days earlier, justifying himself with the statement, “a judge can change his
mind.” Judge Zobel’s pro-Harvard favoritism stemmed from the fact that (a)
he was a graduate of Harvard Law, (b) per his own admission on record, was
an active fund-raiser for Harvard, and (c) sat at two oversight committees at

Harvard, including one that covered the university’s Widener Library. It
happened that one of my key witnesses was a librarian by the name of John
Emerson, who in his deposition had admitted that professor Mottahedeh had
vilified me with members of a fellowship committee at Harvard. Due to his
extensive ties with Harvard and the clear conflicts of interest, judge Zobel
should have dismissed himself from the case, but the temptation to subvert
justice in the interest of the university was apparently too great. I borrowed to
place an announcement in the main section of New York Times regarding the
judge’s travesty of justice and the fact that I had lodged a complaint against
him to the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct – that never
bothered to even entertain my complaint let alone responding, just as the
Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers refused to consider my formal
complaint against attorney Burnham, who had betrayed her client. I ask: Is
this justice? Or outrageous injustice?
· At the federal trial, my first witness was Harvard’s chief counsel at the time of
my arrest, attorney Margaret Marshall, who had by then been elevated to the
position of a justice of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). Yet,
despite a duly-served subpoena and the absence of any order by the court to
quash my subpoena, attorney Marshall failed to appear in court and the
federal judge refused to compel her testimony as required by law. Several
months after the trial, I testified against Marshall’s nomination as the chief
justice of SJC, at the Massachusetts State House, pointing out that she had
violated the law by defaulting a subpoena. Marshall defended herself by
falsely claiming that her motion to quash the subpoena had been allowed
when, in fact, that was a lie, which I proved with the assistance of court
records, to the members of local media, who reported it. I ask: Is this justice,
remotely in line with the spirit of American justice system that a material
witness was granted judicial immunity simply because she was a judge?
· However, the above were not even the most atrocious aspects of the
miscarriage of justice and there were other, more important ones: the federal
judge dismissed the charges against Mottahdeh’s patsy, Shobhana Rana, who
was a key defendant on trial and, yet, failed to appear in court. I had managed
to take her video deposition before she had fled the country and as a result of
discovery in litigating the case had proved to the court that the evidence
contradicting her statements seriously impeached her deposition testimony.
Case in point, whereas Rana as well as Harvard police had claimed that she
was an employee of the Harvard Middle East Center, the director of that
center, William Graham had under oath flatly denied that she had ever directly
or indirectly worked for that center. Not only that, Rana’s Harvard transcript
showed that her deposition statement that she had a master’s degree and had
written a thesis were false and that she had only a bachelor degree, or that her
written chronology of events of extortion were clearly contradicted by her
photos at BayBank furnished to me by defendants as proof of her
“victimization.” No fair and impartial court would ever dismiss the charges

against a defendant who defaulted a subpoena and whose credibility had been
competently impeached.
· The judge had also dismissed the complaint against Mottahedeh, whose incourt
testimony was flatly contradicted by Mr. Wallace, who charcterized
Mottahedeh as “a schizophrenic, pathetic liar.” Whereas Mottahedeh had
testified that he had never called Wallace to speak about me, Wallace testified
that he remembered clearly talking to Mottahedeh, adding that “he had this
nasty and deprecating voice, trying to make me lose whatever respect I had for
Dr. Afrasiabi.” In dismissing the charges against Mottahedeh and other
defendants, they were in effect granted the luxury of extra-legal immunity.
· But, the final nail in the coffin of my ‘David and Goliath’ battle for justice was
delivered when on Day Eight of the federal trial, the judge reversed himself on
the key evidence that alone proved my complaint of a sinister, malicious, and
inhuman conspiracy. That evidence came in the form of a written finding by
two hand-writing experts that found the hand-writing of the Harvard detective
on trial matching the hand-writing of the purported criminal who had extorted
money. The official transcripts of the trial reflect that on Day Seven, the same
judge had stated, “this is so critical that it can win the case.” Sadly, unable or
unwilling to adjudicate the case fairly against the mighty Harvard, the
honorable federal judge chose the indignity of going down in history as the
judge who saved Harvard from a major public embarrassment, by making a
mockery of American justice, by excluding the experts’ finding as well as
their testimony. Not only that, the judge would give highly defective
instructions to the jurors on probable cause, that left the jurors thinking that
simply because the Harvard police had procured a warrant from a magistrate,
their action was lawful. The judge should have given the appropriate
instructions, based on a clear case laws and US Supreme Court precedents,
that a facially valid warrant can be deemed unlawful if procured by relying on
an untrustworthy crime story, fabricated evidence, and the like.
Dear President Obama:
As someone who spent eight years of his life studying law, writing
hundreds of legal briefs, motions, counter-motions, defeating
several motions to dismiss, handling a complicated federal trial for
ten consecutive days, etc., I submit to you that the travesty of
justice mentioned above cannot be defended by any one, let alone
the enlightened ‘beacon on the hill’ that has acted so oppressively,
discriminatory, and illiberally toward me. The shameful behavior of
Harvard’s attorneys or Harvard spokespersons, in conveniently
ignoring the multiple manifestations of prejudice and favoritism in

courts, and labeling the results as “fair” and “case closed,” has
continued until this day.
It merits adding that in March 2006, I was a speaker at a panel on
Iran and non-proliferation at Harvard Law School, along with other
speakers from the White House, M.I.T. and Harvard, and Harvard
Gazette featured a story about that public event that was webcast,
etc. The Kennedy School of Government and several centers at
Harvard Law sponsored that event. Yet, the very next day, the
Harvard police chief informed me that I would be risking arrest if I
ventured inside Harvard property again. “Outrageous, even by
Harvard’s standards,” professor Chomsky’s reaction to this oddity
indeed captured it.
Also, in my oped article as well as a heated television debate with
Mr. Glen Beck, I defended Harvard’s decision to invite the reformist
former president of Iran to speak, on the subject of ethics of
tolerance in the age of violence, this despite the fact that I was, and
still am, prohibited from entering Harvard (which as a matter of
principle I chose not to raise). How ironic that despite my singular
contribution to the university in that episode, standing up to
Governor Romney in print and on television, the university officials
would not allow me to attend Mr. Khatami’s speech, even though
Mr. Khatami had put me down as one of his guests and a number of
Harvard faculty and research scholars, who have penned joint
articles with me, still adorning Harvard’s websites, strongly
supported me. Sadly, the forces of repression and intolerance lined
up against me at Harvard have overwhelmed every effort from
inside or outside Harvard to put an end to this horrifying ordeal that
has turned my immigrant American dream into a perpetual
Kakfaesque nightmare.
In conclusion, I implore you to examine the facts of my complaint
narrated in this open letter and to take whatever steps necessary in
order to correct this egregious injustice that has seriously affected
the fulfillment of my right to live a free and dignified life in America,
for the simple fact is that I have been robbed of this liberty that is
enshrined in the UN Charter and Declaration of Human Rights.


  1. This is a truly sad chapter in the world of academics, but not so uncommon in this supposed "free society". Search for "Ward Churchhill" and you will find another persecution because of the political beliefs and affiliations of Mr. Churchhill. And remember that the famous civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart, aged 70 years, now sits in a NY prison for defending a Muslim accused of "terrorist actions". And Norman Finklestein, denied tenure and forced out because he defends the Palestinians and writes the truth about Israel. It's a very tarnished "democracy", isn't it, Kaveh?

  2. Dear Dr. Afrasiabi, Unfortunately, you took your case to the U.S. Supreme Court that has not shown any objection to the removal of the right of Habeas Corpus, in the name of Homeland Security; the same court that recently eliminated democracy by passing a law allowing corp.'s unlimited campaign contributions. The same corporations that make up the U.S. oligarchy. Please take your case to a real court of justice, not a kangaroo court! Sumitted by: Ahmad Aleagha