February 25, 2021

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Iran jails US businessman, could hurt Biden’s plans for diplomacy with Tehran

WASHINGTON – Three days after the US election, three days after the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist, a family friend told NBC News that Iranian authorities had convicted an American businessman on espionage charges.

The case threatens to complicate the next administration’s plans to pursue diplomacy with Iran, as President-elect Joe Biden has said he would be willing to ease sanctions on Tehran if the regime returns to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iranian-American Emad Sharqi, 56, was summoned to a Tehran court on November 30 and sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of spying without trial, a family friend said.

The family said in a statement that Sharqi’s family had not heard from him for more than six weeks.

One year earlier, in December 2019, an Iranian court allowed Sharqi no wrongdoing, but the regime withheld his Iranian and US passports.

In the weeks leading up to Biden’s victory in the US presidential election, and three days after the assassination of Mohsen Bakrizadeh, a leading nuclear scientist and senior security official, in the east of Tehran, Iranian officials are facing off. Iran blames Israel for the massacre; Israel declined to comment on the incident.

The Iranian media and Farsi language companies had previously reported on Sharqi’s sentence, but did not mention his US citizenship. After he was convicted, Sharkey was not arrested Iranian media Sharqi was reportedly arrested on December 6 near Iraq’s northern border in Iraq’s western province of Azerbaijan.

His family says Sharqi has been arrested ever since.

“Emad is the heart and soul of our family,” Sharki’s family said in a statement to NBC News.

“We pray for his health and safety,” the statement said. “It’s been more than six weeks since he was taken away. We do not know where he is or who holds him. With caution for his well-being, we have not spoken publicly about his case now and do not want it now. Please pray for us and for him to return home safely.”

Iran’s UN The task did not respond to feedback.

The White House National Security Council and the Biden Change Committee did not respond to requests for comment.

In addition to Sharqi, three more Iranian-Americans have been detained in Iran: Siyamak Namaji, who has been in prison since 2015; His aging father, Bager, who is medically; And Iranian-American environmental activist Morat Tahpas, a British citizen.

Siamak Namasi, Iranian-American consultant in San Francisco in 2006.Via Ahmed Kierostomy / Reuters file

The timing of Sharqi’s sentence and imprisonment could jeopardize the Biden administration’s planned efforts to renew the 2015 nuclear deal and reduce diplomacy between the two countries to pursue diplomacy with Iran.

President Donald Trump re-imposed sanctions on Iran two years ago by pulling the United States out of the multinational JCPOA nuclear deal. Tehran has gradually violated the terms of the agreement that imposed limits on its nuclear work. Biden has said that Iran is ready to ease sanctions if it returns to compliance with the agreement with the support of European powers Russia and China.

According to regional analysts, human rights groups and former seniors, tough elements in Iran have been suspicious of Washington’s support for provocative measures, including the imprisonment of foreigners in the past. U.S. officials.

Sharkey was born in Iran and educated in the United States, earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree from George Washington University. He and his wife returned to Iran in 2016.

While in the United States, he worked in the plastics industry at an airline brokerage firm in Abu Dhabi, and at the time of his arrest worked for an investment firm called Sarawa Holding, which focused on the technology sector. In one of the Iranian media reports, the family friend said that it was wrong to say that he was the number two ranking manager in the company and that he was not a big partner. He only worked for the company for several months when he was jailed in 2018.

On August 8, 2009, Iranian Judge Abolgassem Salawati attended a trial for Iranian opposition prisoners in Tehran.Ali Rafi / AFP via Getty Images File

Family friend described Sharqi as a gentle, caring man who was committed to his family and had no history or interest in political activities.

Sharqi was first arrested in April 2018 and held in Evin prison in Tehran until December 2018, when he was released on bail. The family friend said that while he was behind bars, he was repeatedly interrogated and faced the wall in the corner of the room with his eyes closed.

During the first 44 days of his detention, Sharqi had no contact or access to the outside world, including his family, a family friend said.

A family friend said Sharqi’s sentence and sentence in November 2020 were handled by a judge of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Iran, Abolchez Salawati. The judge was known to deliver harsh sentences and was allowed by the U.S. Treasury Department. The Treasury Department said Salawati had “punished more than 100 political prisoners, human rights activists, media personnel and others who want to use the freedom of assembly.”

Human rights groups have accused Iran of arbitrarily imprisoning foreign nationals, violating their rights to due process and using the cases as bargaining chips with other governments.

Iran denies the allegations and denies reports that detainees have been subjected to inhumane treatment or abuse.