WASHINGTON — Solely weeks after the U.S. election, and three days after an Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated, Iranian authorities convicted an American businessman on spying expenses, a household good friend instructed NBC Information.
The case threatens to complicate plans by the subsequent administration to pursue diplomacy with Iran, as President-elect Joe Biden has mentioned he can be open to easing sanctions on Tehran if the regime returned to compliance with a 2015 nuclear settlement.
Iranian-American Emad Shargi, 56, was summoned to a Tehran court docket on Nov. 30 and instructed he had been convicted of espionage and not using a trial and sentenced to 10 years, a household good friend mentioned.
Shargi’s household has not heard from him for greater than six weeks, the household mentioned in a press release.
Solely a yr earlier, in December 2019, an Iranian court docket had cleared Shargi of any wrongdoing, however the regime withheld his Iranian and U.S. passports.
The about-face by the Iranian authorities occurred solely weeks after Biden gained the U.S. presidential election and three days after the killing of a number one nuclear scientist and senior protection official, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, east of Tehran. Iran blamed Israel for the assassination; Israel has declined to touch upon the incident.
Iranian media and Farsi-language shops had earlier reported Shargi’s conviction however didn’t point out his American citizenship. After his sentencing, Shargi was not taken into custody however Iranian media reported Shargi was arrested on Dec. 6 within the West Azerbaijan province of Iran, close to the northern border with Iraq.
Shargi has been held incommunicado since then, in keeping with his household.
“Emad is the center and soul of our household,” Shargi’s household mentioned in a press release obtained by NBC Information.
“We simply pray for his well being and security,” the assertion mentioned. “It has been greater than six weeks since he was taken and we don’t know the place he’s or who has him. Out of warning for his well-being, we have by no means spoken publicly about his case and do not want to now. Please pray for Emad and for his secure return house.”
Iran’s U.N. mission didn’t reply to a request for remark.
The White Home Nationwide Safety Council and the Biden transition group didn’t reply to requests for remark.
Aside from Shargi, there are three different Iranian-Individuals below detention in Iran: Siamak Namazi, who has been behind bars since 2015; his aged father, Baquer, who’s on medical furlough; and Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American environmental activist, who additionally holds British citizenship.
The timing of Shargi’s conviction and imprisonment may put in danger deliberate efforts by the incoming Biden administration to pursue diplomacy with Iran to revive a 2015 nuclear settlement and cut back tensions between the 2 international locations.
President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the multinational JCPOA nuclear deal two years in the past and reimposed punishing financial sanctions on Iran. Tehran in flip has progressively violated the phrases of the accord that had positioned limits on its nuclear work. Biden has mentioned he can be able to ease the sanctions if Iran returned to compliance with the settlement, which was backed by European powers, Russia and China.
Hardline parts in Iran have remained skeptical of diplomatic overtures to Washington and up to now have backed provocative actions, together with the imprisonment of overseas nationals, as a method of undermining any rapprochement with the West, in keeping with regional analysts, human rights teams and former senior U.S. officers.
Shargi was born in Iran and educated within the U.S., incomes an undergraduate diploma from the College of Maryland and a grasp’s diploma from George Washington College. He and his spouse had moved again to Iran in 2016 to reacquaint themselves with the nation, the household good friend mentioned.
He had labored within the plastics supplies trade whereas within the U.S., for an aviation brokerage agency in Abu Dhabi, and, on the time of his arrest, he was working for an funding firm referred to as Sarava Holding centered on the tech trade. The household good friend mentioned an Iranian media report that prompt he was the quantity two-ranking government on the agency was inaccurate and that he was not a significant shareholder. He had solely been working for the corporate for plenty of months when he was imprisoned in 2018.
The household good friend described Shargi as a delicate, caring man who was dedicated to his household and had no historical past or curiosity in political exercise.
Shargi was first arrested in April 2018 and held at Evin Jail in Tehran till December 2018, when he was launched on bail. Whereas he was behind bars, he was subjected to repeated interrogations, and was blindfolded and positioned within the nook of the room dealing with the wall, the household good friend mentioned.
Through the first 44 days of his detention, Shargi had no contact with or entry to the surface world, together with his household, the household good friend mentioned.
Shargi’s conviction and sentencing in November 2020 was dealt with by Decide Abolqasem Salavati of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court docket, the household good friend mentioned. The choose is understood for shelling out harsh punishments and has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Division. Salavati has “sentenced greater than 100 political prisoners, human rights activists, media employees and others in search of to train freedom of meeting,” in keeping with the Treasury Division.
Human rights teams have accused Iran of arbitrarily imprisoning overseas nationals, violating their rights to due course of and utilizing the instances as potential bargaining chips with different governments.
Iran denies the allegations and has rejected accounts that inmates are topic to inhuman therapy or abuse.