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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 15, 1999 – Post-Courier)---Dr. Pirouz Hamidian-Rad left Bomana Prison a free man yesterday morning, after 60 days behind bars, saying he had no regrets and that the experience in jail was comforting.

In an interview with the Post- Courier, Dr. Hamidian-Rad, wearing a newly grown beard and looking slimmer and fitter, spoke freely about life in prison, experiences learned, family and life ahead.

He had greeted us with a warm smile and handshake, calling editor Oseah Philemon and me by our first names and saying it was good to see us again.

Before we sat down for the interview, I told him I was recording him on tape and he jokingly said that the last time I had recorded him, it had resulted in his going to jail - a reference, to an interview I recorded during one of those many court battles in September and a recording which I was summoned to produce in the Supreme Court and give evidence on when he was charged with contempt of court.

He said prison was a good experience and he felt healthier than he had been in two years.

"I honestly should say it was a good experience. All my family members except my younger sister have served as political prisoners back home (in Iran). My father, when I was six years old, he served three years under the Shah of Iran as a political prisoner,'' he said.

"The prison was a good opportunity to reflect on what you want to do with your life, what has gone wrong, what needs to be done and what has to be set right.''

The only discomfort though was when he suffered a liver problem on his third night in jail and while waiting to be treated he thought he was going to die.

A nurse from the prison was called at 9:30 p.m. and helped treat him. There were also the mosquitoes and the heat, which were unbearable, prompting him to let his beard grow

But Dr. Hamidian-Rad said his main priorities now were to return to the United States and then to Iran to see his 74-year-old father, who had suffered a heart attack 10 days ago because of too much worry after hearing about his son being in prison.

His only child, an 18-year-old son, has also given up on high school where he was in the 12th grade in the United States.

"My son had lost his best friend in a car accident in front of his eyes and psychologically he was going through a lot of problems. He could not take the pressure. Basically he's not been going to school for three months now, since October 2,'' he said.

While in the United States, Dr. Hamidian-Rad, who has not seen his family in seven months, will also take his long overdue medical check-up, celebrate his 46th birthday with his family and also try to get his son back to school.

At Bomana though, Dr. Hamidian-Rad had the E Wing, which is reserved for expatriate and important prisoners, all for himself, as there was no other prisoner there.

He set up his office in prison and was visited every Sunday by staff and a few very close friends who brought mail, messages, newspapers, documents and food.

"I used the opportunity to catch up with my reading and do a lot of exercise. As you can see, I've lost a lot of weight, about eight kilos (about 18 pounds),'' he said.

"I had a heart problem. I still do, but the first condition for me was to lose weight, a significant amount of weight, and these two months gave me the opportunity to get into a lot of exercise and I am in much better shape than when I went in.''

He said everybody, especially the prison officers, were "extremely pleasant and helpful'' and some of his time in prison was spent drafting budget and business proposals for the prison, for free.

Dr. Hamidian-Rad said the time in prison also gave him the opportunity to get away from the political debates, media coverage and all the stress that came with them.

He said the lessons learned are that politics is a dirty game and while he had never been involved in politics or did not intend to be involved in politics ever again, he was dragged into discussions and issues and got caught up in political indifferences.

Dr. Hamidian-Rad said he has no regrets about having come to PNG in the first place.

"In life you have to face the challenges, never look back in terms of why you came here, why you did this, especially if you think you are doing the right thing,'' he said.

"I always approach my assignments and my work with conviction. Even now I don't regret any advice I have given to the government. I still think the advice was in the best interest of this country.

"I could have taken the money and sat back quietly like many other consultants and then gone home, but I was paid to take up the challenge. I was paid to face the unpleasant messages. So, with my clear conscience, I did that. I did my best under the contract for this country. I don't regret it.''

Dr. Hamidian-Rad said he also is used to difficult types of assignments, such as having driven a taxicab in Washington D.C. for three years to pay for his university tuition fees.

And like he wrote to the chief economist of the World Bank last Friday, PNG was not as bad as getting stuck in the middle of a military coup in Africa when he was leading the Cameroon mission.

"So I am used to this type of difficult assignment. That's why I came to PNG,'' he said.

Dr. Hamidian-Rad said he could not comment on the budget because his contract with the government was still valid, but like any other budget, the key was to implement it well in order to achieve results.

He said he has been in prison since July when he was prevented from leaving PNG; so being in Bomana was no different except for a change in environment.

"In fact, I was more comfortable inside, not being exposed through all the publicity. So I was quite comfortable in the sense that you are away from all these things and you have all the time to yourself to think and to read and write and to exercise,'' he said.

He said his doctor had told him last January to lose 10 kilograms (22 pounds) but he could not do it because of all the work and other pressures until when he went to jail.

On his second day in prison on October 16, he wrote to Finance Secretary Koiari Tarata that he had all the documents with him, a computer and a printer in the cell and that if they needed any services under his contract, he could provide them from prison.

Dr. Hamidian-Rad wrote another letter to him last Friday, informing him of his intention to travel out of the country by the end of this week and return in late January.

While he still maintains that he does not owe any axes, he has made arrangements for the K 1.2 million (US$ 446,263) claimed by the Internal Revenue Commission to be deposited as security so he can leave the country as soon as possible.

However, the court battle with IRC over the tax issue will come up in court again tomorrow (Thursday).

Dr. Hamidian-Rad said even though it has been reported that his contract with the State was cancelled, he has not heard anything official and in any case, he was still paid his scheduled payment last week.

He said the State was trying to terminate his contract, claiming he now had a criminal record, but legal opinion from his lawyers is that his was not a criminal offence.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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