Persecution of Dual Nationals: Businessman Serving 10-Year Prison Sentence After Coerced Confession
Wife Used as “Bait”
Iranian-Austrian dual citizen Kamran Ghaderi is entering the second year of his 10-year prison sentence in solitary confinement in Tehran after being coerced into confessing to espionage in 2016, an informed source told the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“They threatened him that if he didn’t cooperate, his wife would be taken into custody,” said the source. “They forced him to sign a confession under intimidation and psychological torture, otherwise they had nothing to convict him of espionage.”
However, Ghaderi’s wife was never in such danger, and now the 53-year-old is in poor physical and mental condition after being held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison’s Ward 209 since his arrest on January 2, 2016. His repeated requests to be transferred to a public ward have been denied, said the source, adding that Ghaderi’s “family demands his unconditional release and immediate return home.”
The source continued: “There is no evidence to show Kamran committed espionage… His lawyer said in court that Kamran signed the confession under duress and therefore it should not be admitted as reliable evidence. Also, Kamran himself denied the accusations in court. So it’s strange that the judge still sentenced him to 10 years in prison only on the basis of the so-called confession.”
“We don’t know if Kamran was arrested in connection with some political issues between Iran and Austria or if it’s purely a financial matter,” said the source. “But he’s just a businessman who has done nothing wrong, and Iranian judicial officials are well aware of that. If they are looking for spies, they should catch real ones.”
The prosecution used the coerced confession to gain a 10-year prison sentence against Ghaderi in the Revolutionary Court where he was tried for “conducting espionage for enemy states.” The Appeals Court later upheld the sentence.
The sentence was announced by Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi on October 17, 2016, along with the announcement of identical sentences against other dual nationals Siamak Namazi, Bagher Namazi, Farhad Abd-Saleh, Nizar Zakka, and Alireza Omidvar .
Ghaderi was the CEO of Avanoc, an Austrian IT management and consulting company, and living with his wife and three children in Vienna when Intelligence Ministry agents arrested him upon arrival at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport on January 2, 2016. He was on a routine business trip and had previously traveled to Iran on many occasions for work and business seminars, including as a member of the Austrian delegation to Tehran led by then-President Heinz Fischeri in October 2015.
“In February , a month after Kamran was arrested, the Intelligence Ministry informed his brother that Kamran’s wife, Harika, could visit him,” the source told the Campaign. “When Harika (his wife) heard this, she immediately flew from Vienna to Tehran and went straight to the Intelligence Ministry. She was questioned for three and a half hours and then told that she was not allowed to see her husband, so she went back to Vienna.”
The source continued: “Then, in April, Kamran was allowed a visit from his mother and told her that he had no choice but to sign a (false confession) because if he didn’t, his wife would be detained.” But Ghaderi’s mother informed him that his wife was “never” under the threat of detainment by the authorities and was safe at home.
“That’s when Kamran realized he was lied to,” said the source. “The authorities used Harika as bait to get him to sign a false confession.”
Experts on Iranian law have questioned the legality of the charge of “espionage for enemy states,” a veiled reference to the United States.
“According to the Foreign Ministry, Iran is not at war with any state other than Israel,” Tehran-based attorney Saeed Khalili, who has defended many prominent political prisoners, told the Campaign in October 2016.
“We even have joint treaties with the U.S. from before the  revolution, which are still referenced in international negotiations and court cases,” he added. “On the basis of the Foreign Ministry’s position, we cannot accuse anyone of cooperating with the U.S. as an enemy state.”