Former Post-Doc Will Stand Trial

Afrasiabi Denies Extortion Charge, Cites 'Mind-Blowing Conspiracy'

A former Harvard postdoctoral fellow will likely stand trial this spring on charges of extorting $500 from a research associate in the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

Kaveh Afrasiabi, who was arrested at his home on January 17, said he is innocent of the charges against him.

Calling himself "a hostage of Harvardian politics," Afrasiabi said he has been framed and faces "trumped-up charges" in an elaborate conspiracy, in which he said he believes Harvard Police and University officials may have participated.

"There are people at Harvard out for my blood," Afrasiabi said. "Such a mind-blowing conspiracy could not possibly have occurred without the participation or approval of some administrators at Harvard."

Harvard and local law enforcement officials stand behind the police investigation and the charges against Afrasiabi.

"I compliment the police on their investigation and I look forward to seeing justice prevail in a court of law," said Harvard spokesperson Joe Wrinn.

John P. Towle, a spokesperson for the Middlesex County District Attorney's office, said there is adequate evidence to pursue the case against Afrasiabi.

"At this point we are moving ahead based on the merits of the evidence," Towle said.

At a bail hearing held at the end of January, Afrasiabi's lawyer asked the judge to dismiss the charges because the prosecution's only witness, Shobhana Rana '89, failed to identify Afrasiabi.

The judge did not throw out the case, Afrasiabi said, because Harvard Police Detective Richard Mederos introduced a statement in which Afrasiabi reportedly admitted his guilt in the case, a statement Afrasiabi denied making.

Mederos declined to comment for this story, saying he did not wish to compromise the case in any way.

Towle said that although prosecutors were surprised when Rana could not identify the suspect, the prosecution has enough evidence for a trial to go forward.

And Afrasiabi said that even if the prosecution did want to drop the case, he would demand a trial to ensure that his innocence was proven.

Afrasiabi said he intends to sue the University because, he said, Harvard officials had a "strong intent to demolish my public character."

According to Afrasiabi, his arrest and upcoming pre-trial hearing--set for March 12--are the culmination of five years of feuding with Gurney Professor of History Roy P. Mottahedeh, the former director of Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern studies.