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Iranian-American back home from Iran prison

SANTA ANA, Calif. — An Iranian-American peace activist who spent four months in a Tehran prison has returned home after posting bond with Iranian authorities, his son said.

Ali Shakeri, 59, arrived Tuesday at Los Angeles International Airport and has spent the past two days recuperating at his home in suburban Orange County, his son, Kaveh Shakeri, said in a telephone interview Friday.

Shakeri, a real estate broker and founding member of a democracy group, was not speaking with reporters Friday, his son said.

"He's in good health," Kaveh Shakeri said. "He's here, we're happy to have him and we're spending time together."

Shakeri was arrested in May and charged with endangering national security, along with three other Iranian-Americans. He was released late last month at the same time that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly.

The charges against Shakeri and the other Iranian-Americans elevated tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The countries are already at odds over U.S. accusations that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and is fueling violence in Iraq. Iran denies both claims.

Kaveh Shakeri said his father was released on bond after posting a property deed for about $110,000 but may have to return to Iran to answer the charges against him. He said the family has scant information about the legal process — and even the exact charges — that his father faces there.

"We're not exactly sure what the next step is," he said. "We'll cross that bridge when we get there."

In the meantime, Shakeri is catching up with family and friends and attending to his real estate business in Lake Forest, his son said. He was not mistreated in prison, he said.

Shakeri is a founding board member of the University of California, Irvine's, Center for Citizen Peacebuilding. He was detained after traveling to Iran to visit his ailing mother, who has since died.

Shakeri has given speeches and radio interviews advocating democracy in Iran and has written occasionally for Payam-E-Ashena, a pro-democracy Persian magazine based in Laguna Hills. His biography on the UCI center's Web site describes him as "an Iranian-American activist who advocates democracy in Iran and peace in the world."

Javad Mostafazi, Shakeri's friend and the publisher of Payam-E-Ashena, said many Iranian immigrants who are politically active are afraid to go back to their native country now because of Shakeri's experience.

"I'm very sorry for what happened to Ali and others but it is the price we pay for freedom," said Mostafazi, who has not yet visited Shakeri. "I hope he gets some rest and then gets back to his activism here."

The Iranian government recently released other Iranian-Americans who were held in Evin prison, including an urban planning consultant with the New York-based Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute and the director of the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

A fourth Iranian-American, a journalist, was allowed to leave the country last month after being stuck there since January because authorities had confiscated her passport.