Iranian authorities have convicted an American-Iranian businessman on spying charges, U.S. media have reported, in a recently revealed case which comes amid high tensions between the two countries.
The State Department confirmed late January 18 in a statement to AFP that “we are aware of the reports that Iran has detained another U.S. citizen.”
The statement did not identify the person and declined to provide further details, but Iranian media on January 14 reported the arrest of Emad Sharqi, describing him as the deputy head for international affairs at an Iranian venture capital company called Sarava.
Sarava Holding’s former managing director, Saeed Rahmani, previously resigned in September 2019 and left Iran.
The website of the Young Journalists Club news agency said Sharqi had been caught “trying to illegally flee the country from the western border,” RFE/RL’s Radio Farda reported on January 14.
The Iranian agency did not disclose that he was a dual U.S. citizen, as Tehran does not recognize dual citizenship.
The Young Journalists Club is an offshoot of Iran’s monopolized radio and TV network but run by managers close to the intelligence organization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
The Young Journalists Club reported that Sharqi had been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of espionage and gathering military information and was out on bail ahead of an appeal when he tried to hide.
But a family friend quoted by NBC television on January 18 said Sharqi, 56, whom the channel identified as Iranian-American, was summoned to a Tehran court on November 30, 2020, and told that he had been convicted of espionage without a trial.
NBC said that Sharqi was arrested in 2018, but was originally acquitted by an Iranian court in December 2019, ahead of his conviction late last year.