Iran arrests dual national on security-related charges

AP News
Posted: Aug 16, 2016 9:25 AM

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has detained an Iranian with a second nationality over alleged links to British intelligence, a prosecutor said Tuesday, the latest in a series of arrests of dual citizens in the country.

The circumstances surrounding the detention were unclear, but hard-liners in Iran's security forces have increasingly targeted those with foreign ties in the wake of last year's nuclear deal with world powers.

Speaking to journalists, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi described the detained individual as being "active in the economic field, related to Iran," the official IRNA news agency reported. Dolatabadi didn't elaborate, saying only that the arrest took place last week. He did not identify the individual's second nationality.

Iranian hard-liners have criticized a planned meeting in September called "Iran Connect 2016," sponsored in part by Iran's Ministry of Information and Communications Technology and the British-Iranian Chamber of Commerce. A flier for the event notes it is "strictly prohibited to Iranian individuals and entities that are sanctioned by the U.K. government and/or the EU."

The hard-line daily newspaper Javan, which has links to Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, criticized the restrictions on Tuesday. "The administration, indeed, has allowed the British Embassy to implement European sanctions in Tehran," it said.

The British-Iranian Chamber of Commerce and those organizing the event did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Iranian officials in Tehran and Iran's mission to the United Nations also did not immediately comment.

Britain's Foreign Office issued a brief statement saying: "We are seeking information following the reported detention of a dual Iranian-British national in Iran." Foreign Office officials refused to say whether they were confirming the person held was in fact a British citizen.

Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, meaning those detained cannot receive consular assistance. In previous cases involving dual nationals, like the detention of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, officials initially announced indictments had been handed down without providing specifics. Later, news organizations with close ties to security services offered details of the charges.

Those detained typically face trial in Iran's Revolutionary Court, a closed-door tribunal which handles cases involving alleged attempts to overthrow the government. Rezaian was convicted but later released in January as part of a prisoner swap between Iran and the U.S.

It's unclear why Iran is increasingly detaining dual nationals, but analysts and others have suggested hard-liners want concessions from the West in exchange for releasing them.

Those recently detained in Iran include:

— Homa Hoodfar , an Iranian-Canadian woman who is a retired professor at Montreal's Concordia University;

— Siamak Namazi , an Iranian-American businessman who has advocated for closer ties between the two countries and whose father is also held in Tehran;

— Baquer Namazi , a former Iranian and U.N. official in his 80s who is the father of Siamak;

— Robin Shahini , an Iranian-American detained while visiting family who previously had made online comments criticizing Iran's human rights record;

— Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe , a British-Iranian woman held in Iran for months over accusations she planned the "soft toppling" of the government while visiting relatives with her young daughter; and

— Nizar Zakka, a U.S. permanent resident from Lebanon who has done work for the American government .

Still missing is former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission.


Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.


This story has been corrected to show Iranian authorities have not identified the arrested person's second nationality.