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Iranian Regime Gives San Diego Man 18-Year Prison Sentence for ‘Spying’

An Iranian court has sentenced Golamreza “Robin” Shahini, a dual American-Iranian citizen from San Diego, to 18 years in prison for allegedly “collaborating with a foreign government” and for Facebook posts.

Observers suggest the Iranian regime’s verdict is an attempt to use detained foreign nationals as bargaining chips for more ransom payments.

According to the Associated Press, Shaini, 46, said “Whatever information they had is all the pictures I posted in Facebook, in my web blog, and they use all those (as) evidence to accuse me,” in a phone interview with Vice News during a phone call from prison.

He added that he “just laughed” when he heard of his sentence, which is reportedly the harshest one yet for foreign nationals detained by the Iranian regime.

Iran does not recognize dual citizenship and treats Iranian-Americans like Iranians, subject to Iranian Islamic laws.

Shahini, who first drew the regime’s attention due to his participation in and support for Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution, said he denied being involved in any sort of spying.

“I do a hunger strike,” Shahini reportedly said in response to news of his sentence, and as a possible alternative to filing an appeal. “Until either they free me or I die.”

Shahini was first taken prisoner on July 11, during a visit to see his mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. He had criticized Iran’s deplorable human rights record online.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby issued a statement on Tuesday regarding Shahini’s sentencing: “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.”

He added that Washington upholds its policy of not paying ransom for prisoners, despite evidence suggesting the U.S. delivered $400 million into the hands of the IRGC to coincide with the release of four American hostages.

It was the first installment of a larger $1.7 billion settlement that stemmed from the failed U.S. weapons pact with Iran in 1979, under the leadership of President Jimmy Carter, and just prior to the removal of Iran’s last Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi from power.

“We don’t pay ransom,” Kirby stressed. “We didn’t then, we don’t now, we’re not going to change that policy going forward. And we’re going to continue to raise our concerns with Iranian officials about the detained citizens there.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump staunchly opposed the Iran nuclear deal and has blasted Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for starting the talks.

Last month, Iran sentenced a British-Iranian woman to five years in prison for allegedly planning to help overthrow the Iranian regime. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe‘s young daughter was also with her, and is currently living with her parents in Iran. Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, is asking the British government to help with her release.

Just last week, Iranian-American businessman and founder of a pro-Tehran lobbying group in America, Siamak Namazi, and his father Baquer Namazi, 80, were handed 10-year prison sentences.

Former FBI agent Robert Levinson vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission in Iran’s Kish Island. It is possible he is dead.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter and Periscope @AdelleNaz

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