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Iran arrests nuclear negotiator on spying allegations

IRNA quotes judiciary spokesman as saying Iranian-Canadian national accused of ‘infiltration,’ released on bail

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)

TEHRAN — Iran’s judiciary confirmed the brief detention of a member of Iran’s negotiation team with world powers on suspicion of “infiltration,” the state’s official news agency said Sunday.

Hard-line news outlets said last week that the authorities detained a dual Iranian-Canadian national, Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani, who was a member of a parallel team working on lifting economic sanctions under last year’s landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

The Sunday report by IRNA quoted judiciary spokesman, Gholamhosein Mohseni Ejehi, as saying, “(News of) the arrest of the infiltrating spy is true. He was released based on bail. Yet, his charge is not proved.”

He added that the case was still under investigation, but did not provide any more details and did not identify Efsahani by name.

Reuters quoted the state media as saying that Ejehi called the detainee a “spy who had infiltrated the nuclear team.”

It remains unclear why Esfahani is under investigation, though 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 involving dual nationals, 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.

Ramze Obour (Passcode), a conservative-linked weekly, on Wednesday quoted hardline lawmaker Javad Karimi Ghodousi as saying Dorri Esfahani “bypassed the negotiating team and gave invaluable information to the US.”

It claimed he had been paid by both Britain and the United States.

However, the ISNA news agency said the accused was not a member of the negotiating team or the foreign ministry.

It said the accused “only appeared on the team at certain points, out of necessity on behalf of one of the country’s economic sectors.”

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 want concessions from the West in exchange for releasing them.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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