The arrest of a British-Iranian academic in Tehran has raised renewed concern about the safety of Iranian dual nationals who visit Iran.
IRGC-linked news agency Tasnim reported on Thursday April 26 that “members of a network of infiltrators have been arrested,” Naming Abbas Edalat as one of them.
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) intelligence agents arrested Mr. Edalat, a London-based academic and anti-war campaigner, at a relative’s home in Tehran on April 15, The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) broke the news on Wednesday April 25.
The CHRI reported that IRGC agents confiscated some of Edalat’s belongings including his computers, CDs and notebooks.
CHRI added that one week after his arrest, Edalat’s family prepared the bail money to secure his release but the court refused to release him.
Journalists and Iran watchers were surprised by Edalat’s arrest, as he was known for campaigning against US sanctions on Iran. He ran the New York-based CASMII (Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran) and traveled to Iran frequently to take part in academic workshops.
Edalat, who lectured on computer sciences and mathematics at London’s prestigious Imperial College, was politically active while negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program were being conducted and actively campaigned against US sanctions on Iran and the idea of a military intervention in the country.
CHRI Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi has said that that the case against Edalat is part of Iranian hardliners’ campaign against dual nationals, adding that “Iran’s continued arbitrary arrests of dual nationals without transparency and lack of due process is extremely concerning.”
In London, a Commonwealth and Foreign Office (FCO) spokesperson said UK government is looking into the matter.
"We are urgently seeking information from the Iranian authorities following reports of the arrest of a British-Iranian dual national," said the FCO spokesperson, adding that the Iranian Judiciary and IRGC intelligence are responsible for the safety of British-Iranian detainees”.
According to media reports, there are at least two other British-Iranians in jail in Iran for reasons that have not been explained by Iranian authorities.
The Imperial College has also said officials are closely pursuing the case.
Iranian-British dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been imprisoned in Iran since 2016, and Kamal Foroughi has been in detention since 2011. Both prisoners are eligible for release, but judicial authorities under hardline influence have refused to free them.
Reports say that IRGC Intelligence has arrested some 30 dual nationals including British-Iranians and American-Iranians since 2015, following the nuclear deal with the West.
Iran is known for arresting dual nationals to use them as pawns in negotiations with foreign powers.
According to the Tehran Times daily newspaper, in an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation moderator Margaret Brennan aired on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said American “demands” to release U.S. citizens held in Tehran without changing the U.S. attitude are hampering “genuine dialogue.”
“The United States needs to approach this from a position of dealing with another sovereign government,” said Zarif. “And if that approach led to change, then the United States would see a difference,” The Tehran Times quoted him on April 22 as saying.
The same quotation was further deciphered in an Iran-linkd media outlet in Lebanon.
“The new exchange of prisoners between Tehran and Washington is possible only if the United States changes its approach to treating Middle Eastern nation,” Al-Manar TV, linked to IRGC and Lebanon’s Hezbollah reported on April 22 in an apparent reference to possible further talks on JCPOA.