The U.S. Justice Department has filed charges against an Iranian political scientist accused of being an agent for Iran’s government.
The Justice Department said on January 19 that Kaveh Afrasiabi, an Iranian citizen with U.S. permanent residency, was arrested at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts the previous day on charges of “acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered agent” of Tehran.
Afrasiabi is due to make an initial appearance in federal court in Boston later on January 19. If convicted on both charges, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
“For over a decade, Kaveh Afrasiabi pitched himself to Congress, journalists, and the American public as a neutral and objective expert on Iran,” John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement.
Demers said that Afrasiabi “was actually a secret employee of the government of Iran and the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations (IMUN) who was being paid to spread their propaganda,” he added.
There was no immediate comment from Afrasiabi or his lawyer.
Federal prosecutors said Afrasiabi worked to influence public opinion in the United States on behalf of Iran in news articles and during appearances with U.S. news media.
They said he also lobbied a U.S. congressman and the State Department to adopt policies favorable to Iran, and counseled Iranian diplomats concerning U.S. foreign policy.
Afrasiabi is said to have been paid approximately $265,000 in checks drawn from the official bank accounts of the Iranian mission to the United Nations since 2007. He also received health benefits since at least 2011.