WASHINGTON: The United States said Tuesday it was “troubled” by Iran’s reported 18-year sentence of an Iranian American accused of spying, a week after two other dual citizens were sentenced amid tense bilateral relations.
In an interview from a prison in northeast Iran with the Los Angeles Times, Gholamrez Reza Shahini, 46, said he was being sent to prison for “collaborating with a hostile government,” a reference to the United States.
The San Diego man, who goes by the nickname Robin, said he was arrested July 11 when he was visiting his mother and other family members in Iran.
“We are troubled by reports that Robin or Raisa Shahini, a person reported to be a US citizen, may have been convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby.
“We reaffirm our calls on Iran to respect and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, cease arbitrary and politically motivated detentions, and ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings in all criminal prosecutions, consistent with its laws and its international obligations.”
Last week, an Iranian American businessman and his 80-year-old father were sentenced to 10 years in an Iranian prison for espionage, prompting the US State Department to demand their release.
Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer Namazi were sentenced “for espionage and collaboration with the American government,” said Iranian prosecutor-general Abbas Jafari Dolat-Abadi, according to the Fars news agency.
In response to the US demand for their release, Iran said it would not accept US “interference” in its internal affairs.
The sentencing of Iranian Americans comes in the context of tensions between the US and Iran over the normalization of financial relations between the Islamic republic and the international community following a nuclear agreement.
The historic deal between world powers and Iran, which came into force in January, saw a partial lifting of sanctions in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program.