Opposing messages by Iran and the new US administration promise tough road ahead for the nuclear deal Trump abandoned.
Tehran, Iran – Iran’s judiciary confirmed on Tuesday that an Iranian-American man charged with spying was arrested earlier this month while trying to flee the country.
Emad Edward Sharghi, 56, was reportedly arrested on January 14. State-affiliated YJC news website at the time published images that showed him being escorted off a plane.
Sharghi had previously been handed a 10-year prison sentence for “spying and collecting military information” but was out on bail pending an appeal, YJC said.
“Recently, an individual with Iranian citizenship, who had charges concerning espionage and collection of information for other countries in addition to a prior case, and was out on bail, was detained and arrested again before leaving the country,” Iran’s judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaeili said.
Esmaeili also told reporters during a press conference that Iran does not arrest people based on their nationality and only pays attention to charges levelled against them.
Iran does not formally recognise dual nationality status.
Sharghi was identified as a senior executive with Sarava, a major Iranian holding company that has invested in some of the country’s largest technology firms.
Sarava said in a statement its cooperation with Sharghi had ended in May 2018 and that linking his case with the company would have “no goal but to confuse public opinion and create an air of disappointment in the country’s entrepreneurship ecosystem”.
Days after Sharghi’s arrest, NBC News cited a family friend who said an Iranian court had cleared Sharghi in December 2019, but that he had not retrieved his Iranian and US passports.
Sharghi’s arrest came shortly before US President Joe Biden entered the White House with a promise of reducing tensions with Iran and looking at bringing the US back into a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that his predecessor unilaterally abandoned in 2018.
In an interview with NBC News published on Tuesday, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, did not comment specifically on Sharghi’s case but repeated Iran’s previous stance that it would be open to a prisoner swap with the United States.
“We are ready to engage on a comprehensive exchange of all prisoners or detainees on both sides, in the United States, in Iran, and those that are waiting to be extradited to the United States. And that is a very simple and straightforward proposition,” he said.