The former leader of the student branch of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Basij forces, who arrived in the United States to work as a medical scholar at a prominent Boston hospital, was deported back to Iran on Thursday after being detained at Logan International Airport.
According to the UK Daily Mail, Mohsen Dehnavi had a work visa and Border Patrol said his detention and deportation had to do with “reasons unrelated” to President Donald Trump’s temporary visa ban.
Stephanie Malin, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, reportedly said that “due to privacy law, CBP is prohibited from discussing the details of any individual’s admissibility inspection.”
“The topic of our research was health and saving ill people fighting cancer from this dangerous disease, but they didn’t allow us entry, despite, as I mentioned, all the efforts made by the American academic community,” Dehnavi said, according to the Daily Mail.
Dehnavi, 32, was detained at Logan International Airport for nearly 30 hours along with his wife and three children. He reportedly held a J-1 visa for visiting scholars and was planning to work at the Boston Children’s Hospital.
According to the Associated Press, Dehnavi served as the head of the student branch of the Basij force, a volunteer group of militants connected to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), at Iran’s Sharif University in September 2007. The Daily Mail notes that he later served on the unsuccessful 2013 presidential campaign of Saeed Jalili, an Iranian hardliner and former nuclear negotiator.
Naturally, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) jumped on news of the incident:
We are hearing reports from Logan Airport about possible violations of the Supreme Court’s order on the Muslim ban #NoMuslimBanEver
— ACLU Massachusetts (@ACLU_Mass) July 11, 2017
Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council, a lobbyist group with connections to Iran’s leadership, criticized Dehnavi’s detention on Twitter:
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) July 11, 2017
According to Radio Free Europe, Parsi later said in an email: “we were not aware of anything about his background except that he was a cancer researcher admitted to a postdoc at Harvard. I find it unlikely that his denial of entry had anything to do with his past in the Basij, since these are things that are carefully reviewed before he even gets a visa.”
“They kept me and my family under detention-like conditions for 28 to 30 hours in a room. They didn’t allow us to call anyone or exit the room,” Dehnav reportedly said.
In Iran, most political prisoners are detained for weeks, sometimes months without even receiving a trial.
According to CBS News, the Boston Children’s Hospital released a statement on Thursday: “He was due to come to Boston Children’s as a visiting scholar on a J-1 visa. His visa had been approved by the State Department prior to travel. Boston Children’s has no additional information about the basis for denying Dr. Denhavi entry to the U.S.”