Charges Against Iranian-American Reflect Iran’s Lasting Paranoia over Mass Protests of 2009
Detained Iranian-American Robin (Reza) Shahini has been formally charged with “acting against national security,” “participating in protest gatherings in 2009,” “collaborating with Voice of America (VOA) television” and “insulting the sacred on Facebook,” but his lawyer has not been granted access to the evidence being used against Shahini, an informed source who requested anonymity told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“Before moving to the U.S., Reza was in Iran in 2009 and took part in some demonstrations, but how can his arrest be justified seven years later upon his return to Iran?” said the source. “This is terrifying. After this, anyone who returns to the country should be afraid of being arrested. Reza loves Iran and his family and that’s why he came back.”
“As far as I know, he was interviewed by VOA [at that time] as an Iranian citizen on two occasions,” added the source.
Millions of Iranians peacefully protested the widely disputed election results of 2009. The protests were met with a violent state crackdown and remain a highly sensitive subject in the Islamic Republic—the events continue to be referred to as the “Sedition” and citizens are still being sentenced to prison terms for their alleged activities that year.
The source added that Shahini, who was arrested on July 11, 2016 by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization in the city of Gorgan, 255 miles east of Tehran, is being held in Ward 2 of Gorgan Prison where he is suffering from health issues.
“Reza has asthma and before he was detained one of his teeth was operated on and needed further treatment after 10 days. But so far there has been no response to the family’s requests to send him to a dentist outside the prison to prevent an infection,” the source told the Campaign, adding that Shahini had been visited by his family only once since his arrest but was able to stay in contact via a prison phone.
According to the source, Shahini was held for six days in solitary confinement at the Neynava Detention Center in Gorgan and then transferred to the city’s main prison, where he was held in solitary confinement for four days. He is currently being held in Ward 2 of the city’s main prison. The authorities have ignored numerous requests by his family to move him to a different ward.
Shahini, 47, who lives in San Diego, California, traveled to Iran in May 2016 to visit his family. He was arrested at his parents’ house a week before he was due to return to the United States on July 20.
Shahini is the latest victim of a string of arrests and prolonged detainments of dual nationals who have travelled to Iran. Several dual national Iranians have been arrested in Iran in the past two years, including Iranian-Canadian Homa Hoodfar, British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Iranian-American Siamak Namazi, all of whom are still being held in Iran.
The growing number of arrests reflects hardliners’ efforts to prevent the engagement with the West that the administration of President Hassan Rouhani has sought to encourage.