With diplomatic relations between the US and Iran – a state Donald Trump has repeatedly accused of being a “state sponsor of terrorism” – already near rock bottom, on Sunday they took another turn for the worse after a United States citizen accused of “infiltration” in Iran was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“This person, who was gathering information and was directly guided by America, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the sentence can be appealed,” deputy judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejeie said in a televised press conference quoted by Reuters, adding that “The person was identified and arrested by the intelligence forces.” The foreigner holds dual nationality of the United States and another country, he said, promising to give more details once the appeals court confirms the sentence.
As Reuters adds, it was not immediately clear whether Mohseni Ejei was referring to Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese citizen with permanent U.S. residency, who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine after he was found guilty of collaborating against the state, according to his U.S.-based lawyer who spoke to reporters in September.
Early in January, Tehran’s chief prosecutor said as many as 70 “spies” were serving sentences in the city’s prisons, the identities of only a handful of which have been made public. Most are thought to be Iranians who hold another passport from Europe or the United States. As was reported at the time, last October, US-Iranian business consultant Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father Baquer, a former UNICEF official, were given 10 years in prison for “espionage and collaboration with the American government.”
Emboldened by Obama’s “negotiating” tactics, which as the WSJ reported last summer involved the stealthy payment of $1.7 billion all-cash payment to secure the release of four US hostages, Iran demanded the payment of “several billions of dollars” to release the Namazis:
As the Washington Free Beacon first reported, senior Iranian officials, including the country’s president, have been floating the possibility of further payments from the United States for months. Since the White House agreed to pay Tehran $1.7 billion in cash earlier this year as part of a deal bound up in the release of American hostages, Iran has captured several more U.S. citizens.
Iranian news sources close to the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which has been handling prisoner swaps with the United States, reported on Tuesday that Iran expects “billions of dollars to release” those U.S. citizens still being detained.”
“We should wait and see, the U.S. will offer … several billions of dollars to release” American businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer, who was abducted by Iran after the United States paid Iran the $1.7 billion, according to the country’s Mashregh News outlet, which has close ties to the IRGC’s intelligence apparatus. That amount may have been just the beginning: according to the WFB, “Future payments to Iran could reach as much as $2 billion, according to sources familiar with the matter, who said that Iran is detaining U.S. citizens in Iran’s notorious Evin prison where inmates are routinely tortured and abused.”
It was not immediately clear if a similar demand would be made this time to accelerate the release of the unknown US citizen.
Meanwhile, on Sunday morning, the US has already called for the immediate release of the detained US citizens.
#BREAKING US calls for Iran’s immediate release of detained US citizens
— AFP news agency (@AFP) July 16, 2017