Shahini lives in San Diego, but traveled to Iran to visit his sick mother. He was arrested by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard at his mother’s house. As is so often the case when they grab a Western prisoner, the Iranians were vague about the exact nature of his alleged offense; it was widely speculated Shahini’s criticism of Iran’s human rights record on Facebook annoyed the theocracy.
Foreign Desk News reports that last week, a website tied to the Revolutionary Guard posted photos taken from Shahini’s computer or phone, seized at the time of his arrest, ostensibly showing him meeting with exiled former Iranian president Abolhassan Banisadr and Reza Pahlavi, son of the long-dead Shah.
Neither of these men is popular with the current Iranian regime. In particular, the Shah’s son is allegedly conspiring to overthrow Iran’s revolutionary theocracy, and Shahini will now be charged as an agent of espionage, dispatched by the U.S. government to wreak havoc and set the stage for Pahlavi to seize power.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran sees the arrest of Shahini as a sign of Iran’s “lasting paranoia” over the Green Revolution of 2009, which Shahini has been accused of participating in. Other specific charges quoted by the Campaign include, “acting against national security,” “collaborating with Voice of America television,” and “insulting the sacred on Facebook.”
The “informed source” who spoke with the ICHRI said Shahini was interviewed by Voice of America on two occasions and called the notion of arrest for participating in protests seven years ago “terrifying.” The source also noted that Shahini’s lawyer has not been allowed to see the evidence against him, a quaint custom of the Iranian legal system.
The Foreign Desk relays allegations from Shahini’s family that he has been tortured in captivity, specifically by withholding his asthma medicine and dragging him into smoking areas of Gorgan prison where he’s being held.
Barack Obama’s nuclear deal certainly seems to be working wonders for U.S.-Iran relations! Actually, the Associated Press notes that Iran’s “hardliners” have been targeting people with foreign ties even more frequently since the nuclear deal.
This could be an attempt to gain more leverage over the U.S. and European powers — the Iranians complain incessantly about the sanctions that still remain in place against them — or maybe to set up another cash ransom deal, like the one the Obama administration keeps lying about.
The Associated Press lists Westerners and dual-nationals who remain missing or imprisoned in Iran, in addition to Shahini. They include: Iranian-Canadian retired professor Homa Hoodfar, Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer, British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Lebanese-born U.S. resident Nizar Zakka, and former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who has been missing since 2007.