San Diego res­i­dent said to re­ceive 18-year sen­tence in Iran

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Jon Gam­brell

DUBAI, United Arab Emi­rates — An Ira­ni­anAmer­i­can held in Tehran has re­port­edly been sen­tenced to 18 years in prison for “col­lab­o­ra­tion with a hos­tile gov­ern­ment,” an­other dual na­tional con­victed in a se­cret trial since Iran’s nu­clear deal with world pow­ers.

The sen­tence handed down to Robin Shahini, a 46-year-old grad­u­ate stu­dent who lives in San Diego, is the harsh­est yet for those de­tained in what an­a­lysts be­lieve is hard-liner plan to use them as bar­gain­ing chips in fu­ture ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Shahini told Vice News in an in­ter­view aired late Mon­day that he “just laughed” af­ter hear­ing his sen­tence. He ac­knowl­edged sup­port­ing the protests that fol­lowed Iran’s dis­puted 2009 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, but he de­nied be­ing in­volved in any sort of spy­ing.

“What­ever in­for­ma­tion they had is all the pic­tures I posted in Face­book, in my web blog, and they use all those (as) ev­i­dence to ac­cuse me,” he said in a tele­phone call from prison.

Ira­nian ju­di­ciary of­fi­cials did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Tues­day nor did Iran’s mis­sion to the United Na­tions.

In a state­ment, the State Depart­ment said it was trou­bled by re­ports of Shahini’s sen­tence.

“We reaf­firm our calls on Iran to re­spect and pro­tect hu­man rights and fun­da­men­tal free­doms, cease ar­bi­trary and po­lit­i­cally moti- vated de­ten­tions and en­sure fair and trans­par­ent ju­di­cial pro­ceed­ings,” it said.

Shahini, who trav­eled to Iran to see his mother who was di­ag­nosed with Alzheimer’s dis­ease, was de­tained July 11. He left Iran in 1998 and has lived in San Diego for 16 years. He grad­u­ated in May from San Diego State Uni­ver­sity with a de­gree in In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity and Con­flict Res­o­lu­tion.

Shahini’s girl­friend, who also lives in San Diego, said she spoke to him af­ter he re­ceived word of his sen- tence. “We both just cried,” she said. “We didn’t know how to re­act. It was just a joke or night­mare, I didn’t know what to call it.”

The girl­friend asked not to be iden­ti­fied be­cause she has fam­ily in Iran and fears for their safety.

Iran does not rec­og­nize dual na­tion­al­i­ties, mean­ing that those it de­tains can­not re­ceive con­sular as­sis­tance.

An­a­lysts and fam­ily mem­bers of those de­tained in Iran have sug­gested that hard-lin­ers in the Is­lamic Repub­lic’s se­cu­rity agen­cies want to ne­go­ti­ate an­other deal with the West to free the de­tainees.

A pris­oner ex­change in Jan­uary that freed jour­nal­ist Ja­son Reza­ian and three other Ira­nian-Americans also saw the U.S. make a $400 mil­lion cash de­liv­ery to Iran the same day. The pay­ment of that cash, part of a $1.7 bil­lion set­tle­ment of a decades- old ar­bi­tra­tion claim between the United States and Iran, has drawn crit­i­cism from Repub­li­cans who de­scribe it as a ran­som pay­ment.

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