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South Carolina Woman Reassured About Imprisoned Brother

December 2, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A South Carolina woman said Tuesday she returned from Iran reassured about the condition of her imprisoned brother and overawed by the generosity of the people she met.

″Iranian hospitality makes southern hospitality seem like we’re just getting started,″ Ellen Pattis said in a telephone interview from her home in Aiken, S.C., where she arrived Monday night after nearly two weeks in Iran.

″They are very gracious and kind and compassionate people,″ she said.

Ms. Pattis, who had been advised by the State Department not to travel to Iran, said the two, 2-hour visits she had with her brother, Jon, convinced her that he has been treated well at Evin prison in the outskirts of Tehran.

Jon Pattis, who worked for Cosmos Engineers of Vienna, Va., on a telecommunications project in Iran, was arrested on June 16, 1986. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of spying.

The Reagan administration has said repeatedly that Pattis did not work for the federal government, and the Pattis family does not believe he was a spy.

Prison guards at Evin gave Ms. Pattis no indication that Pattis would be released before serving his sentence, but she said she remained hopeful that he might be freed earlier than scheduled.

In the meantime, Pattis, 50, looks well. He spends time ″in a fairly spacious cell that he does not share with anyone,″ and is allowed outside frequently, she said. ″He has a great tan.″

Pattis eats typical Iranian food, such as kebabs, yogurt and some vegetables.

Ms. Pattis said there is another American in the sprawling prison complex, but she did not see him and did not know his name. Pattis is able to talk with many of the guards because they speak English.

Prison officials told Pattis that he will be allowed to make a telephone call to his mother shortly, Ellen Pattis said.

As for the future, Ms. Pattis said, ″He (Jon) is like I am, a very positive person,″ she said.

Ms. Pattis, 43, said the trip she made with a traveling companion, Cathy Lewis, also of Aiken, was eased by local journalist, Fereydon Pezeshkan, a correspondent for the South-North News Service in Hanover, N.H.

Pezeshkan drove the women to the prison, helped with interpreting and invited the Americans to dinner, Ms. Pattis said.

Other Iranians were also friendly and helpful. When Ms. Pattis was lost once, a stranger drove her to the middle of Tehran and paid for her taxi fare.

The American woman encountered no overt hostility, Ms. Pattis said. ″There may have been one or two people at the airport who reacted to the American passports with less than joy, but they might have been having a bad day,″ she said.

Ms. Pattis said she saw few signs of the Iran-Iraq war in the bustling city of Tehran. She neither noticed shortages in the stores nor saw wounded soldiers in the streets.

Several construction projects appeared to have been halted, apparently because of a shortage of workers caused by the war, she said.

Otherwise Ms. Pattis said Tehran is a ″thriving city,″ with a climate much like that of Aiken. A light snow fell on Ms. Pattis’ final day, dusting the city which is surrounded by mountains.

″It was a lovely trip,″ Ms. Pattis said. ″I’d go back in a heartbeat.″

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