Iran recently arrested an American businessman while he was “fleeing” the country, NBC News reported on Monday.
Emad Sharghi, a 56-year-old US citizen, was arrested “while illegally fleeing the country through its western borders,” Iran’s state-run YJC news agency first reported on Thursday, without saying when the arrest had taken place.
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YJC published images of Sharghi being detained in what appeared to be an airport.
It added: “Sharghi, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of espionage and gathering military information, had been released on bail and was trying to escape before the appeals court.”
The news agency gave no further details about Sharghi’s case.
While reporting on his arrest, Iranian media did not mention that Sharghi is a US citizen, NBC News reported, citing a family friend.
Sharghi “was summoned to a Tehran court on Nov. 30 and told he had been convicted of espionage without a trial and sentenced to 10 years,” the report said.
The report added that Sharghi was arrested on December 6, and that his family members have not heard from him for over six weeks.
“It’s been more than six weeks since he was taken and we have no idea where he is or who has him. Out of caution for his well-being, we’ve never spoken publicly about his case and don’t wish to now. Please pray for Emad and for his safe return home,” a family statement obtained by NBC News said.
Sharghi was cleared of all charges in December 2019, but in spite of that, the Iranian authorities held on to his Iranian and US passports, the report said.
The about-face by the Iranian authorities came only weeks after Joe Biden won the US presidential election and three days after the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the report noted.
Sharghi was born in Iran and received higher education in the US.
“He and his wife had moved back to Iran in 2016 to reacquaint themselves with the country,” the report said.
At the time of his arrest, Sharghi was working for Sarava Holding, an investment company focused on the tech industry, a family friend told NBC News.
Sharghi was first arrested in April 2018 and held at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison until December 2018, when he was released on bail, the report said. He was reportedly subjected to repeated interrogations while in jail.
Several dual and foreign nationals are currently under arrest in Iran, including at least three other Iranian-Americans.
Critics of the Iranian regime accuse Tehran of arresting foreign nationals on trumped-up charges and using them as hostages in an effort to win concessions from other countries.
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