Iran Sentences Nuclear Deal Negotiator to Five Years for Espionage

A member of the Iranian team that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal has reportedly been convicted on espionage charges and sentenced to five years in prison.

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the individual in question, although not identified by the Iranian government, was most likely Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani. Esfahani, a dual citizen of Iran and Canada, is the only negotiator known to be facing criminal charges in Iran; he was reportedly detained, and somewhat unusually released on bail, in 2016.

AFP provided more details of that incident in October 2016: the Iranian judiciary called Esfahani an “infiltrating spy,” but Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said his “experts” cleared the accused of espionage charges and announced the case against him had been dropped. Evidently, the “hardline” faction in Iran believed Esfahani passed what one Iranian newspaper described as “invaluable information” to the United States during the nuclear negotiations.

The New York Times cites Iranian media reports that the person convicted and jailed this week “had been released on bail after his arrest and conviction by a lower court, but that an appeals court had upheld the ruling” as further evidence that Esfahani is the target. The NYT report speculates he was jailed as a means of Iran expressing its displeasure with the benefits of the nuclear deal, or with President Donald Trump’s desire to withdraw from it.

Canadian officials said they were aware of the reports, but could not confirm Esfahani was the person sentenced to prison. Esfahani’s family could not be reached for comment by the Associated Press, while the Iranian delegation to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment.


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