Iran’s Revolutionary Court in Tehran has sentenced an Iranian-American man and his wife, both of whom are adherents to the ancient Zoroastrian faith, to 27 years and 16 years on charges of espionage and for being a Zoroastrian dual national.
Iran does not recognize dual nationals.
“The court has granted me the honor of being the first Iranian to be convicted under Article 989 of the Civil Penal Code. … It means my wife and me, and every one of you dual national Zoroastrians who returned to your country to invest in the homeland you love are always going to be in danger of losing your assets and being forced to leave the country,” Iranian-American dual national Karan Vafadari wrote in a letter from Iran’s notorious Evin Prison last month, which was acquired by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
In his letter, Vafadari wrote:
Unfortunately, my international activities [in the art world] raised the suspicions of the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization. Fortunately, the initial, baseless security accusations that led to our arrest were dropped, but our gallery, office, warehouses and home remained locked and our cars, computers and documents were confiscated, followed by accusations and interrogations that indicated a deeper plot.
Vafadari reportedly denounced the “unjust and tyrannical” 27-year prison sentence and the 16-year prison sentence his wife Afarin Neyssari received. In addition to his sentence, Vafadari has reportedly been condemned to 74 lashes and fined $38,000 for keeping alcohol.
The couple was reportedly arrested by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) at Tehran’s international airport in July 2016.
According to the BBC, the Tehran prosecutor announced two weeks after their arrest that the dual nationals had been charged with hosting parties for foreign diplomats and Iranian associates and that alcohol was served in a mixed gender environment.
Iran’s constitution—which the regime does not strictly adhere to—reportedly states that followers of Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity are not subject to Islamic laws which forbid consuming alcohol and mixed gender gatherings.
In 2016 Breitbart News reported:
According to Articles 12 and 13 of the Iranian Constitution, all branches of Islam and Christianity have the right to worship, as do Jews and Zoroastrians, within the limits of the law there. However, converting away from Islam to any other religion is considered haram, or forbidden, and in many cases, could result in execution.
Other dual nationals who are currently imprisoned in Iran reportedly include British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe; Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi and his elderly father and former UNICEF representative Baquer; and Iranian-Canadian Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani who worked with Iran’s nuclear negotiating team as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).