Iran sentences American citizen to 18 years for espionage

by WorldTribune Staff, October 25, 2016

Iran has sentenced a dual American-Iranian citizen to 18 years in prison on charges of “collaborating with a hostile government.”

Reza “Robin” Shahini, 46, was visiting his mother in northeast Iran in July when he was arrested by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers while walking to a restaurant with friends.

Reza “Robin” Shahini
Reza “Robin” Shahini

Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, said it “is an unprecedented sentence for that charge. It’s extremely harsh.”

The charge, Ghaemi said, is supposed to be used for those accused of collaborating with countries with which Iran is at war. “The charge against him does not hold ground under Iranian law, because the United States is not a hostile government according to an opinion of the Iranian Supreme Court, because Iran is not at war with it.”

Shahini is the latest in a string of people with dual citizenship to be either detained or given prison sentences by Iran.

Last week, U.S.-Iran dual citizens Siamak Namazi, a Dubai-based businessman, and his 80-year-old father received 10-year prison sentences. There have been at least five known cases of dual nationals from Canada, the UK and U.S. detained by Iran since the nuclear deal was implemented this past January.

In an interview from prison with VICE News, Shahini said he asked to see the evidence against him, but was told by authorities “they don’t answer such questions. The thing is they are all brainwashed [to think] that the U.S. is a hostile government. Even the judge.”

Shahini, who emigrated to the U.S. in 2000 at age 30, said he did participate in the “Green Movement” of 2009, when thousands of Iranians took to the streets to protest what was seen as election rigging by former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The judge referred to Facebook posts that he had posted during that time as evidence. Shahini said he supports the current president, Hassan Rouhani.

In a statement to VICE News, the U.S. State Department emailed: “We have seen reports of the detention in Iran of Robin Shahini a person reported to be a U.S. citizen. As we’ve said before, the Secretary raises the cases of detained and missing U.S. citizens anytime he meets with Iranian officials. Beyond that, we’re not going to get into the specifics of those conversations.”