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Iran frees U.S. businessman accused of aiding opposition

WASHINGTON - Iran yesterday set free an American businessman jailed in Tehran for more than two years on suspicion on ties to an allegedly violent opposition group.

Reza Taghavi, 71, hadn't been charged with a crime and denied knowingly supporting the organization, known as Tondar.

"He admitted to nothing, and he continues to maintain his innocence," his lawyer, Pierre Prosper, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Tehran after his client's release from Tehran's Evin prison. He's not expected to return to Southern California before the middle of next week.

Iranian officials are "comfortable that he was in fact used by this organization, and comfortable that he does not pose a threat to them and that he can leave and go back to the United States," Prosper said.

Iran had accused Taghavi of passing $200 in cash to an Iranian man tied to Tondar. Taghavi, who regularly visits Iran to conduct business and see family, had received the money from a friend in California with instructions to pass the cash to an Iranian, according to Prosper.

"I didn't do anything wrong. Someone just asked me take this money to help someone," Taghavi told ABC News.

His family had said he has diabetes and was in poor health, and his lawyer has asked Iran to free him on humanitarian grounds.

While Taghavi never was charged formally, Prosper said there is a case within the Iranian justice system. He plans to meet with a judge in hopes of getting that case dismissed. The best way to describe the situation, he said, is that the case is suspended and Taghavi is free to leave.

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