WASHINGTON — Iranian authorities have convicted an American-Iranian businessman on spying charges, US media reports, in a recently revealed case that comes amid high tensions between the two countries.
The US State Department confirms in a statement to AFP that “we are aware of the reports that Iran has detained another US citizen.”
It doesn’t identify the person and declines to provide further details, but Iranian media reports the conviction of Emad Sharqi, describing him as the deputy head for international affairs at an Iranian venture capital company called Sarava.
The Young Journalists Club, a news agency linked to Iranian state television, says Sharqi had been caught “trying to illegally flee the country from western borders.” It doesn’t disclose that he was a dual US citizen, as Tehran does not recognize dual-nationality.
He had been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of espionage and gathering military information and was out on bail ahead of an appeal when he tried to abscond, the YJC says.
But a family friend quoted by NBC says Sharqi, 56, whom the US television channel identifies as Iranian-American, was summoned to a Tehran court on November 30 and told that he had been convicted of espionage without a trial.
Revelations of the case come as US President-elect Joe Biden is due to be sworn in tomorrow, with the difficult relationship between Washington and Tehran one of the top foreign policy challenges at the start of his administration.