Iran arrested 12 top officials for spying in last 2 years, MP says
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Iran arrested 12 top officials for spying in last 2 years, MP says

Detainees reportedly infiltrated top government posts, held dual citizenship; Tehran denies breaching nuke deal

US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif after the UN atomic watchdog verifies that Iran has met all conditions of the July 2015 nuclear deal, in Vienna, Austria, on January 16, 2016. (AFP/Kevin Lamarque/Pool)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif after the UN atomic watchdog verifies that Iran has met all conditions of the July 2015 nuclear deal, in Vienna, Austria, on January 16, 2016. (AFP/Kevin Lamarque/Pool)

An Iranian lawmaker said Tehran has arrested 12 top officials who held dual citizenship over the past two years, Arabic-language media reported on Wednesday.

MP Hussein Ali Haji Degana said the 12 had allegedly infiltrated into top government decision-making posts and had been put on trial, the pan-Arabic Asharq Al-Awsat said.

Al Arabiya said some of them had been arrested simply for holding dual citizenship.

Degana called on Iran to conduct their trials with transparency and called for the identities of the detainees to be made public.

In August, Tehran reportedly arrested Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani, one of the nuclear deal negotiators, who also held British citizenship.

Esfahani was a member of a team working on lifting economic sanctions under last year’s landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. In October, Iran’s intelligence minister said Esfahani had been cleared of all charges.

Dual nationals have been increasingly targeted by security forces since the nuclear deal. Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, meaning those detained cannot receive consular assistance.

In previous cases, like the detention of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, officials initially announced indictments had been handed down without providing specifics. Later, news organizations with close ties to security services offered details of the charges.

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, center, appears with his wife Yeganeh Salehi and mother Mary Reazaian in Germany on January 20, 2016, following his release from Iranian custody (screen capture: YouTube)
Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, center, appears with his wife Yeganeh Salehi and mother Mary Reazaian in Germany on January 20, 2016, following his release from Iranian custody (screen capture: YouTube)

It’s unclear why Iran is increasingly detaining dual nationals, but analysts and others have suggested hard-liners were seeking concessions from the West in exchange for releasing them.

Meanwhile, Iran denied on Friday that it had in any way breached its nuclear deal with world powers, insisting it was meeting its commitment to cap its stocks of controlled materials.

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency last week showed that Iran’s stocks of so-called heavy water had inched above the 130-ton level set out in the agreement.

Heavy water is not itself radioactive but is used in certain types of nuclear reactor, which can in turn produce plutonium that can be used in an atomic bomb.

Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak. (CC-BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia/Nanking2012)
Iran’s heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak. (CC-BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia/Nanking2012)

The July 2015 deal with world powers sets Iran’s heavy water “needs” at 130 tons and states that any excess must be “made available for export.”

Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said arrangements were in hand to export the excess.

“Iran has fulfilled its obligations on heavy water stockpiles,” state broadcaster IRIB quoted him as saying.

“We were required to put on the international market any excess over 130 tonnes and so far we have sold 70 tons,” he said.

“Negotiations are under way with interested countries, in particular European,” to sell the rest.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano had chided Iran on Thursday for exceeding the agreed limit on its stockpiles for a second time.

“It is important that such situations should be avoided in future in order to maintain international confidence in the implementation,” he said.

Washington has played down concerns about Iran’s exceeding of the stockpile limit.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said last week that it was “important to note that Iran made no effort to hide this” and that he was “not sure whether that constitutes a formal violation.”

In all other respects, the IAEA found that Iran was continuing to abide by the agreement’s terms.

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