An Iranian medical researcher who was prevented from entering the United States to work at a Boston hospital is believed to have been an active member of the Basij force used in Iran as a tool of state repression.
Seyed Mohsen Dehnavi was the head of the Basiji at Tehran's Sharif University, former students at the university and activists claim.
Several former Sharif University students who did not want to be identified because of fear of government harassment told RFE/RL that Dehnavi was involved in putting pressure on reformist students.
Media reported that Dehnavi, who was identified as a cancer researcher, was detained at Boston's Logan Airport on July 11 and later sent back to Iran, despite traveling on a valid visa to work as a scholar at Boston Children's Hospital, which is affiliated with the Harvard Medical School.
"Dr. Dehnavi is a visiting research scholar on a J-1 visa coming to Boston Children's with his wife and three children," the hospital said in a statement. The hospital did not respond to a request by RFE/RL for comment on Dehnavi's alleged connections to the Basij.
Visa Denia 'Unrelated' To Travel Ban
Later, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol spokeswoman Stephanie Malin was quoted by the AP news agency as saying that Dehnavi and his family were put on a return flight to Iran shortly after 9 p.m. on July 11.
She said the Dehnavi family's detention was for "reasons unrelated" to President Donald Trump's executive order that ban's entry to the United States to most people from six predominantly Muslim countries, including Iran.
Malin added that Dehnavi's entry refusal was based on information uncovered during a review by the Customs and Border Patrol and that foreigners can be denied entry on several grounds, including criminality, security concerns, and health-related issues.
It is not clear why Dehnavi and his family were not allowed into the United States.
After he had criticized Dehnavi's detention on Twitter, National Iranian American Council (NIAC) President Trita Parsi said that it was unlikely he was denied entry because of his reported Basiji background.