Foreigners arrested in Iran over past 15 years

17 Jul 2019 / 10:52 H.

PARIS: The arrest of Franco-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, which Iran confirmed on Tuesday, is the latest in a string of detentions of foreigners, most of them dual nationals from Western countries.

Tensions between Tehran and the West have increased after the United States withdrew in May last year from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that had been reached with world powers.

Iran does not recognise dual nationality, and generally does not allow consular access for the detainees.

Following is a list of some detentions of foreigners over the past 15 years.


- Fariba Adelkhah was “among suspects that have been recently arrested”, Iran’s judiciary spokesman said Tuesday, without specifying the accusations against her.

Adelkhah, 60, is a well-known expert on Iran and Shiite Islam at the prestigious Sciences Po university in Paris. According to a colleague, she was arrested on June 5 and is being held in Evin prison, north of Tehran.

- In October 2018, French national Nelly Erin was arrested for “illegal entry” and freed in February. A business executive, originally from Martinique, Paris said she had been detained for “signing an illegal contract”.

- In July 2009, Clotilde Reiss, a young French academic at Ispahan University, was detained and accused of having taken part in anti-government protests before being convicted of espionage. She was freed on bail in May 2010.

- In November 2005, German Donald Klein and Stephane Lherbier of France were arrested for fishing in the Gulf allegedly in Iranian waters. They were freed from prison in early 2007.

United States

- Former US soldier Michael R. White was sentenced in March to two years in prison for having insulted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and 10 years for having posted personal photos on social media, according to his lawyer.

He had been arrested the previous July while visiting a girlfriend, according to his mother.

- Xiyue Wang, a Sino-American researcher at Princeton University, was detained in August 2016 accused of “infiltration” and given a 10-year prison term in July 2017.

- In October 2016 Iranian-American Gholamrez Reza Shahini told the Los Angeles Times from prison in Iran that he was sentenced for “collaboration with a foreign government” after his arrest in July while visiting his mother and other family members.

- Two Iranian-Americans, businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Mohammad Bagher Namazi, got 10-year prison sentences in October 2016 “for spying and collaborating with the US government”.

Siamak Namazi was detained in October 2015 and the father, over 80-years-old who had worked for UNICEF, was arrested in February 2016 when he went to Iran to try to free his son.

- In January 2016, four Iranian-American prisoners were freed in an exchange with the United States which released seven Iranian detainees.

Matthew Trevithick, a student, was also separately freed by Tehran.

The prisoner exchange took place on the first day that the 2015 Iran nuclear accord took effect.

- In July 2009, sociologist Kian Tajbaksh, a dual US and Iran national, was arrested during post-election disturbances and eventually got a reduced sentence of five years in jail.

- Former FBI agent and CIA collaborator, Robert Levinson, disappeared in March 2007 in Iran, which claims to have no information about what happened to him.

- A Lebanese resident of the United States, Nizar Zakka, was given a 10-year jail term accused of spying for Washington, which he denied.

He was freed and returned to Beirut in June this year.

- In addition, several American hikers in Iran have been detained over the years, accused of spying, and then released.


- British-Iranian academic Abbas Edalat, arrested in April 2018, was accused of belonging to an “infiltration network” and had his computer, CDs and notebooks seized, according to an NGO. He was released and returned to the UK in December last year.

- Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, another British-Iranian, has been imprisoned since 2016 for alleged sedition. She was arrested at Tehran airport while leaving Iran after having brought her 22-month-old daughter there to visit family.

Employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the media group’s philanthropic arm, she has been accused of seeking regime change, which she denies. She was given a five-year sentence.

On Tuesday her family said she had been transferred from prison to the mental ward of a hospital in Tehran.


- In February last year, Iranian-Canadian ecolgoist Kavous Seyed Emami, accused of spying, died in prison, less than a month after his arrest, with the authorities claiming “suicide” which his family and colleagues doubt.

Emami was the second Iranian-Canadian to die in prison in Iran after the death in 2003 of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who had been arrested for taking photos outside a prison.

- Anthropologist Homa Hoodfar, imprisoned in June 2013 for “security crimes”, was freed for “humanitarian reasons” in September that year.

- Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, another dual national, had emigrated to Canada after the Islamic Revoluton in 1979.

He was arrested in 2009 for spying when he returned to Iran to see his sick mother. His death sentence was commuted to five years in prison and he was released in September 2013.

- Canadian-Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan was sentenced to 19 years in jail in 2010 for “helping an enemy state” and “propaganda against the regime” after going to Israel.

- In June 2009, Maziar Bahari, a dual national journalist, was detained for divulging “false information”. He was released on bail in October that year.

Other Europeans

NETHERLANDS: A Dutch-Iranian human rights activist was freed after eight years in August 2014. He was a defender of the Arab minority in Iran who had been accused of “terrorism”.

SLOVAKIA: Eight Slovaks, suspected of spying after taking photos in unauthorised zones of Ispahan province, were arrested in May 2013. Six were freed in September, the other two in December.

SWEDEN: In March 2006, two Swedes were detained for having taken photos of military installations on the island of Qeshm in the Gulf. Sentenced to three years in jail, they were released after a year. — AFP

Untitled Document

email blast