Foreigners arrested in Iran since 2015
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Foreigners arrested in Iran since 2015

Recent years have seen a string of detentions of foreigners, most of them dual nationals from Western countries

US journalist Jason Rezaian waves as he poses for media people in front of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, after being released from prison in Iran, January 20, 2016. (Michael Probst/AP)
US journalist Jason Rezaian waves as he poses for media people in front of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, after being released from prison in Iran, January 20, 2016. (Michael Probst/AP)

The release of an Australian couple detained in Iran, which Canberra confirmed on Saturday, comes amid a string of detentions of foreigners, most of them dual nationals from Western countries.

Tensions between Tehran and western capitals have increased since Washington withdrew in May 2018 from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Iran does not recognize dual nationality, and generally does not allow consular access for detainees.

Australia

    • Iran in September confirmed the arrest of travel-blogging couple Jolie King and Mark Firkin for “spying.” Australia said on October 5 that they were released after “very delicate negotiations. On the same day Iranian state television said Reza Dehbashi, an Iranian PhD student, had returned to Tehran after being held in Australia for 13 months for allegedly trying to circumvent US sanctions.
Jolie King and Mark Firkin (YouTube screenshot)
  • Iran confirmed on September 11 that Melbourne University academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert had been arrested for “spying for another country.”

Britain

    • Iran confirmed the arrest of Kamil Ahmadi on October 1. The British-Iranian anthropologist is subject to a “preliminary investigation” on suspicion of “links to foreign countries and institutes affiliated with foreign (intelligence) services.”
    • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, another British-Iranian, has been imprisoned since 2016 for alleged sedition. She was arrested at Tehran airport while leaving Iran after having brought her 22-month-old daughter there to visit family. Employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the media group’s philanthropic arm, she has been accused of seeking regime change, which she denies. She was given a five-year sentence.
Richard Ratcliffe displays a family photograph of himself and wife Nazanin with their daughter Gabriella in London, April 2, 2018, on the second anniversary his wife’s detention. (John Stillwell/PA via AP)
  • British-Iranian academic Abbas Edalat, arrested in April 2018, was accused of belonging to an “infiltration network,” according to an NGO. He was released and returned to the UK in December 2018.

Canada

  • In February last year, Iranian-Canadian ecologist Kavous Seyed Emami, accused of spying, died in prison, less than a month after his arrest, with the authorities claiming “suicide” which his family and colleagues doubt.

France

  • Iran confirmed the arrest of the French-Iranian Fariba Adelkhah on July 16, a day after it was announced by Paris. Adelkhah is an expert on Iran and Shiite Islam at the Sciences Po university in Paris. On Friday, Tehran slammed France’s “unacceptable interference” after it sought consular access to her.
  • In October 2018, French national Nelly Erin was arrested for “illegal entry.” A business executive originally from Martinique, she was freed in February.

Lebanon

  • A Lebanese resident of the US, Nizar Zakka, was given a 10-year jail term accused of spying for Washington, which he denied. He was freed and returned to Beirut in June.

Russia

  • Journalist Yulia Yuzik was arrested in Tehran on October 3 in her hotel room for “collaborating with Israeli security services,” according to her ex-husband. Russia summoned Iran’s ambassador to Moscow to “clarify the circumstances” and was told she “would soon be released,” according to the foreign ministry.
Russian journalist Yulia Yuzik, arrested in Tehran in October 2019. (YouTube screenshot)

United States

    • Former US soldier Michael R. White was sentenced in March to two years in prison for insulting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as 10 years over private photos posted on social media, according to his lawyer. He had been arrested the previous July while visiting a girlfriend, according to his mother.
    • Xiyue Wang, a Sino-American researcher at Princeton University, was detained in August 2016 accused of “infiltration” and given a 10-year prison term in July 2017.
    • In October 2016 Iranian-American Gholamrez Reza Shahini told the Los Angeles Times from prison in Iran that he was sentenced for “collaboration with a foreign government” after his arrest in July while visiting his mother and other family members.
In this undated file photo released by the “Bring Robin Home” Facebook page on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, Robin Shahini poses for a picture. (Robin Shahini via AP)
  • Two Iranian-Americans, businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Mohammad Bagher Namazi, got 10-year prison sentences in October 2016 “for spying and collaborating with the US government.” Siamak Namazi was detained in October 2015 and the father, over 80-years-old who had worked for UNICEF, was arrested in February 2016 when he went to Iran to try to free his son.
  • In January 2016, four Iranian-American prisoners, including journalist Jason Rezaian, pastor Said Abedini, ex-marine Amir Hekmati and Nasrollah Khosravi were freed in an exchange that saw the US release seven Iranians. Matthew Trevithick, a student, was also separately freed by Tehran. The prisoner exchange took place on the first day that the 2015 Iran nuclear accord took effect.
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