Reading Kafka at Harvard (2)

Conversation With A Harvard Detective


Reading Kafka at Harvard (2)
by Kaveh Afrasiabi

Chapter Two (Chapter 1)(Chapter 3)
The Arrest…Conversation With A Harvard Detective
Harvard University Department of Police came at me in one ambush

With four cruisers
Eight yelling officers
At five in the morning,
Carrying a sixth sense of
Disproportion buried
In thick air of deceit.*

“Someone must have traduced Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.” -- Franz Kafka, The Trial

The arrest at 10 Chase Street, Newton Massachusetts

At day break on Wednesday, January 17, 1996. A tremor shaking the old house to the roots I thought, but the surge of sounds drilling into my peaceful sleep bespoke of an impending crisis of a different kind, one that would instantly transform my life for years to come by imposing on me all the existential horror of a Kafkasque nightmare. Luckily, that night my wife Sylvia and our little Sabrina were staying with my mother-in law who was recuperating from an ice-related car accident. Winter had arrived in full force that January. Lying in bed with the bedside lamp on, I didn’t move but tried to grasp what was happening. A luminous fresco of clouds was gazing through the bay windows; expectant mother nature had found an empty theater to mount a small absurdist play. The heavy knocks on the door sounded as if I had been hit in the head.

”Who is it?”

”The police, open up,” a husky and unmistakably mean voice penetrated in.

”How do I know you’re the police?” I ask as I ran to the door, hesitating my hand on the knob.

“Just dial 911. They’ll tell you,” the same voice rattled the walls.

“Just wait a minute.” And I ran to the wall phone in the kitchen.

“Newton Police. Your call is recorded,” a male officer answered.

”Hi. I live at 10 Chase Street, and there are some people at my door claiming to be police officers.”

“That’s right. Just open the door or they will break in.”

Stunned, I hung up and opened the door.

Several scary-looking uniformed and plainclothes men were lining up the stairs to our third floor unit, their eyes loping in my direction glowing in the dim light like big cats in the dark. The one facing me, a tall African-American officer towering over me at 6’3” or 6’4” was, much to my relief, none other than the neighborhood friendly cop, Tyron Brown.

Officer Brown and I were both regulars at Abruze, a popular Italian restaurant at Piccadily Square a mere two blocks away that was owned by a mutual friend, Mario Boccabella, through whom I had been inducted in Newton elections, most recently in fundraising among the affluent Iranian-American community on behalf of a mayoral candidate, Lisle Baker. I had recently seen officer Brown at the home of respected Iranian academic, professor Farhang Mehr, who had kindly agreed to my suggestion of holding a fundraiser for Baker, a law professor at Suffolk University, who was pleasantly surprised at the high caliber of invited Iranian guests who lived in Newton and had no qualm about making generous contributions to his cause. To open a parenthesis here, Dr. Mehr, who is also a leader of the Zoroastrian community world-wide, would pay a personal price for his friendship with me. “They stopped inviting me to Harvard right after what happened to you,” Mehr would tell me one day. “So they blacklisted you too, unbelievable.”

My last encounter with officer Brown was right before the November elections, when he had casually strolled in our strategy meetings at Abruze listening for a few minutes before walking out bored.

“Hi Tyron, what’s up?” I uttered. Mirror-imaging my startled glare for split second, officer Brown eased his hands away from his strapped gun while changing his facial expression veering in the direction of setting aside all niceties and according me no deference at all. “Move to the side,” he thundered, cutting into my simultaneous “what is going on?”

”These men are from Harvard police. They have a warrant for your arrest,” officer Brown explained once he stepped inside, followed by the others.

“Arrest me?! On what charge?!” I exploded, now trying to convince myself that I was not hallucinating.

“Threat and extortion,” said one of the two plainclothesmen, opening the handcuffs clenched in his hands. “Step against the wall. Someone read him his Miranda,” he ordered.

“I know my right,” I retorted as one of the uniformed Harvard officers began reading from an index card while the cuffs were ringing around my wrist.

“You do, ha? How is that?” The one with the cuffs reacted sarcastically. He was in his late thirties, early forties, clean-cut, small boned but muscled frame, taller than me at 5’10” or 5’11” wearing faded jeans and a thick wool flannel shit under a gray hooded jacket, looking every bit a detective.

“I am a professor of American politics, that’s why,” I answered.

“I don’t give a shit,” said the detective and then after a fleeting pause asked, “where?”

“At University of Massachusetts sir,” I responded rather sardonically, fully convinced by then that I was simply experiencing a rather bemusing case of mistaken arrest seen in the media now and then. Already, somewhere in my mind I was envisioning myself standing before my students and giving them a detailed account of this surprised encounter with law and order, this as my little vignette on the upcoming section on the judicial branch. What a coincidence that a mere ten or eight days earlier in my evening class populated by older students we had touched on the Miranda right to remain silent when discussing Tony Lewis’s classic, The Gideon’s Trumpet. I liked to encourage student debates of public issues, organizing the class experience as an open workshop that involved discussion and criticisms, often dividing the students into several “editorial boards” so that they could develop their own perspectives and proposals on the questions of public debate --- the appalling sight of two of the Harvard cops searching the kitchen and inside the bedroom bureau instantly flashed the next topic in my head: Illegal search. I had to take this intrusion more seriously now.

”Do you have a search warrant too?” I protested under a vague memory of a Supreme Court guideline – that cursory, incidental search at time of arrest is permitted, but the line is crossed when searching inside the cabinets, desk drawers and the like.

“They just want to make sure everything is fine,” replied the same detective sourly and then asked, “where are your shoes?” I pointed at the bedroom closet. His head gestured me in that direction.

“You are making a big mistake. I don’t have the slightest clue what you are talking about,” I said half-calmly as I was putting my socks on, cleared my still sleepy voice and with a firmer voice demanded to see the warrant. My question annoyed the detective. “Just hurry, and put on a jacket if you like.”

I wanted to change out of my sweatpants into something more presentable but the detective wouldn’t allow that. We then exited the bedroom bounding for the stairs. “Don’t you know me Tyron?!” I leveled my gaze at officer Brown resigning himself to a passive observer the whole time. He threw his hands hopelessly in the air and said, “yeah, of course I know you. You’re a friend of Mario. I’m sorry, they’ve got a warrant. Sounds like a serious case you’re in my friend.” Much as I liked the “my fried” part, he was letting me know that I had now been reduced to a “case” to him. I was speechless.

At the door, the arresting detective grabbed my arm to a halt and asked, “don’t you want to bring your wallet?”

“My wallet? Why?”

”For identification,” he said and then tersely added, “you may need money to buy things in jail. You know, candy, smoke, you smoke, don’t you?” I nodded negatively. “You won’t be coming back a while,” the other detective chuckled from behind.

“It’s in my pants” I uttered dimly, now feeling like someone hit with a ton of bricks, frozen into a dizzying disbelief, chewing my lips. The first detective then went into the bedroom and returned with my black wallet, stuck it inside the side pocket of my sweatpants and then hammered, like a happy hunter, “all right, let’s go.”

“Don’t pretend Mister innocent for me. Keep moving.” He marched me down the stairs. The slushy dirt from their boots had made a mess of the new foyer rug at the front entrance.

Outside, it was cold and a wet snow was tapering off. The eerie sight of four or five police cruisers with their lights on was an unseemly, embarrassing sight in the neighborhood. May be I was lucky and our neighbors were still sleep in spite of all the commotion, I said to myself. “God damn it. I want to know why I am being arrested?” I shouted in anguish just as I was being shoved in the back seat of one of the cruisers bearing the insignia of Harvard Police.

“Shut your mouth,” the detective shouted back, slammed the door and after a brief conversation with officer Brown shook his hand and jumped in and gave a devilish grin to his partner sitting behind the wheel sipping his Dunkin Donut coffee. “Let me have a sip.” His partner reluctantly turned it over. Officer Brown’s Newton cruiser sped passed us. For some reason, those Harvard cops were in rush to leave, as if deliberately waiting for inquisitive neighbors to venture out and see which neighbor had instigated that pre-dawn invasion of the neighborhood with police cars. The radio crackled and the detective picked it up. “Yeah. We got him. No, Didn’t resist. Okay.” He sounded like someone who had pulled off something rather extraordinary to stock up his portfolio. Finally, after nearly half an hour, our little caravan got moving.

“Are you really from Harvard police?” I uttered, still confused.

”Yeah really. Why?”

“I just don’t understand how you could operate outside the campus? Isn’t this outside your jurisdiction?”

Both men paused on my innocent question for a moment before putting on dismissive grins. “Did you hear that? Jurisdiction. Who the hell taught you that camel jockey?” The detective spitted.

“I told you I teach American government.” That shut them up for a couple of minutes as the cruiser sped through red lights. “Funny, isn’t it? Every one keeps asking us that,” the detective opened his mouth again and after a sneeze continued, “we can arrest any one anywhere.” Checking me through the mirror, the one driving laughed and elaborated, “hell, we can even come to your home in Teheran or wherever the hell it is and arrest you there, isn’t that right Rich?” “Damn right.”

“You’re out of line sir. I live here,” I said calmly but firmly, my eyes glued to the snake-like exhaust fumes of a snow truck in front of us. The car’s heat was slow reaching the back and I was shivering, the tight cuffs paining me. I closed my eyes for a moment and tied a make-believe nap, conjuring in my mind a line from V.S. Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival when the author reveals a “fear of the racial gaze and its potential for obliteration.” We were now crossing the Harvard Bridge past the stadium over the frozen waters of the Charles River.

At Harvard Police Headquarter

A few minutes later we had pulled inside the Harvard University Police headquarters on Gardner Street and then herded through the booking process – the repeat Polaroid mug pictures with a plated serial number tagged to my chest, the messy finger prints, and a “standard” biographical questionnaire. One expects fixity in police work and it was marginally reassuring that those cops were up to par with the norm. A genial-looking lieutenant, his face showing the radiant enthusiasm that I was a happening to relieve them from their campus tedium, informed me that he was in “command” and, yet, he too ignored my plea to see the warrant. Such oddities, I wondered, now experiencing a rapid meltdown of my confident mood into a growing concern lacerating my chest, concern that this may not be a mistaken arrest at all but rather a well-orchestrated and premeditated false arrest.

“Can you please make sure that there are two officers present at all times,” I besieged the lieutenant, this to minimize the possibility of any foul play if left in isolation: the more people around, the less the chances of anything wild happening to me there, I calculated.

”Don’t worry, nothing is going to happen to you under my watch,” the lieutenant comforted and then, a few minutes later, after the booking wrapped and they were directing me inside a glass door cell at the next room, he waved a single key at my eyes and reassuringly said, “you see this. I have the only key” and then left the room. Pacing the tiny cell like a caged animal, after a few minutes I felt like carving on the wall: solitude is the primary condition of total submission.

Half an hour or so passed and then the detective now known to me as “Rich” entered, sat behind the long table adorned with a telephone and typewriter, and began clacking without casting even a glance at me. My mind instantly tried the philosophical garment of Edmund Husserl, my favorite philosopher, trying to decipher detective-like that man’s act of writing – the ecstatic, self-assured flow of his fingers on the keys smacking of pride, a crescendo of pomp burning on the paper nurturing the self-propagation of law and order required by his stable circumstances. Was he permitted to dispense with the topic-sentence/body-conclusion format, and did he allow his species of formal discourse any input not resonant with as much “legal” euphony as he was supposed to? He wrote inescapably out of his own formal duty no doubt, finishing his report, documenting with precision and in the proper form what seemed very much a corner of his le monde vecue, his Husserlian ‘lived world’. However, he was displeased by my overly inquisitive interruption of his performance.

”What do you want?”

”I want to make a phone call,” I nearly shouted, grinding my teeth in frustration. After a pause, the detective stood and approached the cell and with a key from a key chain attached to his belt opened the door. “So the lieutenant wasn’t the only one with the key after all,” I wondered under my lips as the detective directed me to the phone. “Just dial nine first. But remember you’ve got only one phone call.”

I dialed my mother-in-law’s number and hung up after the second ring, now deciding against causing a major panic over what was bound to be reversed shortly. Besides, I had to call and cancel a major interview – with BBC’s The World, that had been scheduled to take place at their studio at the local public station, WGBH, at exactly nine thirty in the morning, dreadfully approaching now less than two hours away. I called the directory and asked for the main number for WGBH and then, I was dialing the number when a blonde female officer entered and engaged in a whispering conversation with Rich, both of them rolling their eyes when I asked the switchboard to connect me with “BBC’s the World please.” “Any one in particular?” I was asked and answered, “yes, Philip Martin, the producer.”

Martin’s female assistant picked up and informed me that he had not come in yet; she asked me to call back in half an hour. “Can I leave a message for Philip please. This is professor Afrasiabi. As you know I am scheduled to be interviewed today by your Washington reporter, Synthia Ingles.” “Yes of course. We are expecting you.” “Well, right. Unfortunately, there has been a little, how shall I say, incident, and I may be late.” A quick glance at the detective nodding his head in disagreement, and then I modified myself, “in fact, I doubt I can make it today and need to reschedule for another day.” “Oh no.” “I am terribly sorry. Something totally unexpected has happened, I will call you later, thank you.” I then slammed the phone in complete frustration.

I had spent several hours into late night preparing for the live interview beamed to the world on the subject of US-Iran relations, focusing on the situation in Bosnia. Recently, I had published a well-received book, titled After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran’s Foreign Policy (Westview Books), and had gone on a book signing tour, including at Luna Books in Washington, D.C., and Charles Bookstore in Boston, and basking in the small glory of publishing articles and letters in the New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Post, among others (often as in the case of this book using the initial “K” instead of Kaveh -- perhaps if I had the slightest clue that one day I would end up “teasing out the abyss” somewhat similar to Kafka’s Joseph K.’s vision of tragic horror, I may have refrained from this). A few years earlier, I was regularly sought by the local and national media, including Voice of America and Christian Science Monitor, especially during and after the Kuwait crisis triggered by Saddam Hussain’s invasion. But things on the media front had quieted down for a while and I was naturally enthusiastic about my first interview with the prestigious global media, The British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC; the mere prospect of the interview’s cancellation ached my mind and I was now borderline outraged. “I want to speak with the police chief. This is absolutely ridiculous,” I fumed as I was being led back into the cell.

”I AM THE CHIEF HERE,” detective Rich bolted and then softened his voice, “you want to say anything say it to me.” The female officer left and then Rich sat behind the typewrite again. Suddenly, like someone hit with a novel idea, he stood and approached my cell and opened it and asked me in a serious tone, “you say you didn’t extort money from a girl?”
”What?! What girl? What are you talking about?”

“You tell me,” he said coldly and then took one step inside with his hands set inquisitively on his sides and his eyes twitching meaningfully, added, “you did, didn’t you? And don’t you fucking lie to me.”

Feeling threatened by his menacing body language, I stepped away from him to the back of the cell and said, “I want to see the lieutenant. He promised me that he had the only key.”

“What’s the matter? You’re afraid I’m going to hurt you?” His jaws had tightened and he was grinding his teeth and his fists were clenched, a sure sign that he was a split second away from charging at me with the slightest excuses.

”I just want to be left alone, that’s all,” I answered nervously and watched his face loosen up after mulling on his options; he then locked the cell and left the room abruptly. “That was his call, to GBH,” I heard him say to someone in the hall way.

Sitting down on the cold steal bench, I tried to distract myself by conjuring the image of a graffiti carved on a wall at Harvard Square I had seen the other day: Harvard said it. I don’t believe, and that settles it. I now cursed myself for not calling Sylvia’s mom and tried to calm down by keeping the hope that the BBC interview was still salvageable, thus the reason why my mind preoccupied itself with the list of likely questions – that the reporter Ingles had already tested me with in her pre-interview three days before: How strong is the Iranian presence in Tulsa, Bosnia? What do you think are the chances of confrontation between the US peacekeepers there and the Iranian forces? Do you think the Iranian government is likely to lift the death threat on author, Salman Rushdie?

In addition, I was hopeful that she may venture a question about my other book, Nir/North, A Cinematic Story About the Iran-Contra Affair, that was hot off a small press in Boston area and yet had been rather lavishly advertised in Iran Times out of Washington, D.C. A few weeks earlier, I had flown to Santa Monica to meet a Hollywood producer who worked with Oliver Stone and happened to be married to an Iranian girl; his name was Eric Humberg. I had used my connection with CBS’ “60 Minutes” to procure Stone’s address and when we met at an Indian restaurant in Santa Monica Boulevard overlooking the ocean, Eric told me that Stone had given him the book and asked him to read and evaluate it. To my pleasant surprise, Eric, who had been a aide to a California senator during the controversial Iran-Contra hearings and knew the story inside out, seriously liked my take on the story and the cinematic angle and wondered how I knew so many minute details about it. I had spent over a year researching it and interviewing various people directly or indirectly involved in the Iran-Contra affair, that was why. Eric and I had agreed to hit Stone with a ten to twelve page treatment, and that was yet another project that I was now nervous about being adversely impacted by my wrongful arrest. “Hopefully not,” I consoled myself with my eyes closed and with a new determination not to let my fears get out of hand.

At Cambridge Court

“Let’s go, let’s go,” the detective’s voice interrupted my moment of calm.


”Where else, you’re going to see the judge.” Well, at least they were prompt with things and I imagined myself strolling happily out of a court room within maximum hours shaking my head in minor disbelief of this mistaken arrest.

A short trip to the court and soon we were pulling inside a hectic garage beneath an ugly gray complex buzzing with police vans and cruisers loading and unloading their cargo of inmates. We went inside an elevator and when it stopped on the ground floor and ordinary people stepped inside, I tried to hide my cuffs but detective Rich noticed and meaningfully embarrassed me, “they are not too tight, are they?” For a moment the old elevator wouldn’t move and a couple of females looked uneasy standing next to a man in handcuffs.

I was then delivered to the custody of a couple of guards who locked me in a crowded cell full of juveniles. Sitting next to a middle age inmate, I found out that he was there for breaking a restraining order. “I’ve got two small kids and this bitch doesn’t let me see them,” he fumed and then asked, “what about you?”

”I don’t know.”

”What do you mean you don’t know?” '

”I just don’t. I have no clue why they’ve arrested me.”

”Really?! Who is they?”

”Harvard police.” The guy shook his head and said, “that’s not right, they have to tell you why.”

”Well, the only thing they said was threat and extortion.” Our conversation was cut short by a man in three piece suit calling my name.

”My name is Robert Breen, I am a criminal lawyer and I am appointed by the court to represent you,” the man, in his late twenties, early thirties, wearing a yellowish cheap suit that cried out Filene’s Basement; slipped his business card through the bars. A couple of years later, when I had sufficiently self-educated about the legal system, I would learn that Breen’s appointment before my first appearance before a judge was not at all normal and, in fact, quite abnormal, since the normal procedure is that a court appoints a public attorney for an inmate after questioning the defendant if he could afford an attorney and whether or not he liked to be represented by a public attorney? But, a clue to the Kafkasque nightmare visited upon me, I did not go through this procedure and found myself with an attorney hand-picked for me even before I set foot inside the court room. I have no doubt that Breen would be disbarred if he is ever investigated regarding this matter.

“So what have you done?” Breen asked as we went through a quick interview.

“Nothing. I haven’t done anything.”

”Then why are you here?” He asked routinely.

“Excellent question. I don’t know. They said something about threat and extortion but wouldn’t let me see the warrant or the police report.”

“That’s not good. Well let me find out.” He returned a good hour or so later with the disconcerting news that the District Attorney had refused to let him see “the file” until they presented their case to the court. “It’s their prerogative. And in this case, they for some reason don’t feel like cooperating with us. See you in court. Just remember this is an arraignment.”

Finally, around noon time my turn to be escorted upstairs to the court, hectic and buzzing with activities, arrived. I sat in the inmate section next to a couple of other inmates. At a corner in the lawyers row was Breen giving me a welcoming smile; he was reviewing the contents of a folder, hopefully my file. We all stood when the judge entered and then I noticed detective Rich enter through a side door and stand next to a state trooper chatting quietly with him.

”The Commonwealth of Massachusetts versus Kaveh Afrasiabi,” the clerk sitting below the judge sounded a few minutes later and immediately a guard ordered me to stand up. A young prosecutor in his early thirties addressed the judge. His statements are fully reflected in the official court transcript (that I subsequently paid for to receive):

”Pursuant to this case you your honor, there was just some facts, just, for some background, is that one of the professors who is in Middle Eastern Islamic Studies, this gentleman Reza Alavi, woman who he was acquainted with on several occasions met with this woman concerning his displeasure with Mr. Alavi who was the victim involved. One of the letters that was recovered by the police stated, I hate you and your ways for a long time because people like you make the world bad. I’ve been watching you and your young woman friend. I take out my revenge in this way. A brief synopsis of what happened is he approached this woman explaining to her that he would kill the professor if she didn’t go to him and retrieve $500. She was willing to give the money directly to the man. He said no, I want to make sure it’s from him and asked her to go back and get the money from him and basically on two separate occasions met to receive $250. At that time stated that you should not tell any body because if you do harm will come to him. Subsequently, a letter was left at his apartment, underneath his door, concerning what he had done. Subsequently she went to the police. They put together a photo array of individuals. She picked up this individual. Described him to the victim. The victim thought that it might be this individual as he had been asked not to return to many of the – I guess they give lectures there. He has been disruptive during that time and has had problems with him in the past. It’s a case where the Commonwealth had plans to indict and the Commonwealth would ask that you allow for a hearing as to the dangerousness, as there is a series of events. I can go into a little more detail as to how, but that is a synopsis of what the police report would have shown.”

The judge paused to digest the information and after going through the pages of police report glared at me though his thick eyeglasses. “Don’t they teach these people how to speak English? Where do they get their education?” I asked myself, somewhere in a far corner of my head even chuckling at the sheer incoherence of DA’s presentation. Incredibly at that moment I saw detective Rich approach him and whisper something to him and then return to his position. “Such irregularities, where do they come from?” I asked myself again.

“When did the act of extortion happen?” The judge asked the prosecutor.

Such a simple question, but somehow it looked like it was not. Struggling through the pages of the police report, the prosecutor haltingly answered, again per the transcript, “Your honor, I believe the first incident took place when he met with the young lady, eleven, thirteen, ninety five (11/13/95). That is why the officer met with her or shortly prior to that.” The judge shook his head slightly and uttered a vacuous “okay” and then the prosecutor rushed to say, “November 9th, your honor.”

“November 9th, and when was the last incident? When was the last incident, the third or the fourth one?”

“I would have to say that on 1/13/95 is when she actually reported it.”

The judge hesitated and then looked at attorney Breen, now standing next to the prosecutor. “Okay, what do you want to say, counsel?”
Breen cleared his throat and stated on record: “Your honor, the defendant, professor Afrasiabi, denies all the charges, your honor.” I immediately nodded in agreement and yet was rather shocked by Breen’s next statement: “I would offer that it strikes me that the parties, and I do not in any way want to suggest any kind of ethnocentrism in this matter, but it strikes me that we have people who resolve their problems and difficulties with each other in ways which we are unaccustomed to because of our more provincial appropriate manners of resolution, s they may be. It just, to put it quite simply, your honor, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me and I haven’t read the report, just on the representation of both my defendant and the representation of the police report, something seems to be amiss here.”

“Which side are you on Mister, that’s for sure,” I almost screamed. My so-called attorney was for all practical purposes not only subtly incriminating me in so many words, worse, he was also adding salt to the injury by insinuating an uncivilized method of resolving problems on my part. “How can it be? God please wake me from this nightmare,” I prayed.

“I think that the issue outstanding, that issue of dangerousness should be held at the hearing your honor,” the prosecutor added.

The judge concurred. “I think we’ve got to get a date. How is Friday at two?” It was fine with both parties, and that meant no release for now. “Your honor, may I?” I uttered rather spontaneously under a sudden determination to try to nip in the bud in this unfolding injustice.
”I have been in this country for 21 years. I went to Thayer Academy and Boston University, and have done post-doctoral research at Harvard University. I have published books, I have written oped articles in Boston Globe and have made television appearances, most recently on Channel 7. I am so – I’m absolutely ignorant of every single one of these charges. I don’t know what the nature of these charges are. All I know is that five O’clock in the morning the police knocked on my door, that there is an arrest warrant and a full range of policemen that were in my bedroom. I have absolutely no connection to any of these charges. An individual has filled charges against me without basis. I have no prior criminal record. I have never, never, violated the laws of this country. I am a university professor, and you’re going to hold me here as a dangerous person? What danger have I brought? What proof is there? This person that I don’t even know exists, has filed a complaint, because of her frivolous complaint you are going to put me in jail?”

“You say you don’t know Mr. Reza Alavi at all?” The judge asked me with a tone of mistrust putting special accent on “at all.”

“I know Mr. Reza Alavi. He’s an editor of the Journal of Islamic and Middle East Review at Harvard. He is not a professor as far as I know and I have not seen him for a very long time.” I refrained from adding that I knew that gentleman in his mid-fifties from my days as a post-doctoral fellow when he would be attending some seminars and had initially come here to go to Canada but had ended up being recruited by the director of the Middle East program, Roy Mottahedeh. Right then and there my mind quickly started to connect the dots. I had recently filed a complaint against Mottahdeh at the Ethics Committee of Middle East Studies Association and had also sent him a letter by my attorney, Kevin Molloy, that warned Mottahedeh that there would be a defamation law suit if he continued to smear me in the academia just as he had with a fellowship committee at Oxford University (more on this in the next chapter). Was it possible that this whole thing was cooked up in response to my actions against Mottahedeh? I found myself asking that question and answering myself, “but that’s impossible. This is not a third world fascist state to do something like this.” In retrospect, as I reflect back on my state of mind those days, I realize how naïve I was.

“What about Shobhana Rana, you don’t know her at all?” The judge stared into my eyes and I answered, “no, absolutely not.” The judge then turned toward the prosecutor who was sitting going through papers; he stood and, again according to the court transcript in my possession, stated: “There is also if you read the report, a letter subsequently after the fact, after he had extorted confirming that was done in detail about what was happening, your honor. There is also some other information, I believe, that this individual had a number of aliases, Kaveh, Kaven, Lotfollah.”

I cut into his remark. ”I have different first names, that is all My birth certificate is Lotfollah but since childhood I have been called Kaveh…” I stopped myself as I saw the judge not paying any attention to me and busy writing something.

“Afrasiabi continued to January 19, 1999, for a 5 Section A bail hearing at two pm. He is held without bail, that’s all,” the clerk read the note from the judge.

Held without bail?! I could not believe my ears, imagining the court room at that very second as a cemetery of justice. Wasn’t there a Fifth Amendment that said: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentation or indictment of a Grand Jury…”? I thought I knew the Constitution well. In addition to the Fifth, the guarantee of bail had been spelled out in the Eighth “Excessive bail shall not be required” as well as the Fourteenth Amendment: “”Nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without the due process of law.” Hence, the very notion of “without bail” came as a shock to my mental arsenal of legal knowledge, not knowing that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had recently adopted a pre-trial detention law much to the chagrin of civil liberty advocates. Before descending the narrow stairs that opened to the basement detention area, I cast a disparaging glance at attorney Breen to convey my profound disappointment, a glance that I hoped would haunt him the rest of his pitiful legal career. And then I glanced at the detective, Richard Mederos, who was all bright smile.

How little did they know me. Not even in their wildest imagination, that detective and his accomplices would predict that exactly three years they would be standing a jury trial in a federal court charged with conspiracy to frame me with fictitious charges, that I, acting as my own attorney, would prosecute them in multiple courts and ultimately bring my civil rights complaint to the full ears of US Supreme Court justices.

“How can a conspiracy be civil? I don’t understand that,” my other friend, filmmaker David Mamet, who has cited his court appearance on my behalf in a new book, would wonder aloud one day, a couple of years later. But that particular day belonged to them, to detective Mederos, Roy Mottahedeh and his patsy subordinates at Harvard Center For Middle East Studies and, indeed, to the whole sickly Kafkasque universe at Harvard that had put its full might and influence in the service of crushing me, a vulnerable first generation Iranian immigrant who had fled monarchical dictatorship as a teenager completely sold to the myth of freedom in America. “This is criminal. How can they think they can get away with this?” I protested to the guard locking me inside the cell.
”Just shut your mouth and get in there.” I then shared what had happened with my new friend still awaiting for his turn.

”I promise you one thing brother. Whoever is behind this crime against me will pay the consequences, in court of law.” That would mean that except attorney Breen until this stage, no one who was directly or indirectly complicit in the crime against me would escape unscathed, not even the prosecutor, David Losier, who would subsequently be summoned to a federal court and put under a half day of grueling cross-examination by me for his abominable miscarriage of his role that fateful day in January >>> Chapter 3

* Poem from the author’s collection, Infringements. For selected poem from this collection see: Infringements; and: Infringements II


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Harvard police abuse

by mehrdadz on

Mr. Afrasiabi I want to thank you for this. Very sorry to learn that you have been a victim of such a flagrant police abuse at Harvard. There must be some pro human rights people at Harvard and I hope they get to read this story of yours and do something to restore your rights.


Mr. KA: Please use your

by thanks (not verified) on

Mr. KA: Please use your influence with the IRI to stop execution of Farzad Kamangar, Kurdish teacher and activist.

There is a report, here, that Farzad was not executed today - although ten others in his prison were. When I know more I'll let people know.


I Have a Crush on Alex Trebek

I wish this was fiction

by I Have a Crush on Alex Trebek on

This could be a really cool movie. When is this book coming out?


Chilling and Sad

by mahasti on

My heart goes to you Kaveh and your family. I can only imagine the anguish.



by SALTY on

Was there a reason that my post was Censored?


DOWN WITH ......

by maziar 1958 (not verified) on

I don't care about what other people say about your political believe, and i'm not in favor of IRI, But I'm against police brutality any where in the world,
Hope your case against HPD and all involve in your lawsuit would not hit the statue of limitation.


Might is right might really be right here!

by Miny (not verified) on

Enchanting descript of a sad story...Alfred Nobel had said "Justice is to be found only in the imagination"....


no surprise about Dr. Farhang Mehr supporting you

by bahman22 on

Dear Kaveh, thank you for sharing with us your "Kafkasque" story. The sick minds who think just because you supported president Khatami and his reforms you should be put before the firing squad have no clue about human rights so forget about them. Their indifference toward your pain and suffering speaks for itself. I happen to know Dr. Mehr and have the highest respect for him. He lives in California now and I like to know if this is because of what you wrote? Dr. Mehr is a true Iranian who has always lived by Zartosht three good deeds, good talk, good thinking, and good acting. That is why I am not surprised that you have had the support of Dr. Mehr and all those towering figures in America -- Zinn, Chomsky and Mr. Wallace. You are a source of inspiration for all Iranians in America who care about human rights and have human dignity. Thank you again.


It is ironic that a

by sickofiri (not verified) on

It is ironic that a supporter of Khatami and the Islamic Republic has the audacity to talk about Human rights?!!! deeply hypocritical and dishonest, top to bottom!


so sorry

by soheil1 on

Dear Kaveh, I am very sad to hear this. You have my full sympathies and hopefully the sympathy every freedom loving person in Iran, US and the whole world. No wonder professor Chomsky in your letter to America has called it a shameful chapter in American history, it really is.


Harvard fascists

by faraneh2 on

Where is American justice to deal with those fascists at Harvard who think they rule the world and trash people s rights like this? I have just finished reading this chapter and am too angry to write more because if I do it will be just four letter words....


Harvard house of horror

by timbowen2 (not verified) on

Is there any other way to describe this? I doubt it.