Insider news & Analysis in Iran


A US-Iranian dual national and his wife, believed to be owner of an art gallery in Tehran, who often hosted events for dignitaries and foreign diplomats, were arrested last summer, and have been formally charged with with hosting parties. No names were given, but prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said that the case ‘‘is related to a woman and man who provided alcoholic drinks, and encouraged corruption and debauchery by holding mixed parties.’’ He said 4,000 liters of alcohol had been found in the basement of their building in northern Tehran. The couple are said to  belong to the Zoroastrian religion, and are allowed to have alcohol for private use.  However, they are banned from sharing it with Muslims.

Dolatabadi also said that in a separate case,  another couple were given the death penalty for running a ‘’cult’’.  The Tehran prosecutor said on Monday that the couple ‘‘by founding a cult and attracting individuals, were active in sexual deviation.’’ Using a charge introduced after the 1979 revolution that carries the death penalty, they were found guilty of ‘‘corruption on Earth’’.

President Hassan Rouhani has kept to his part of the Nuclear Deal, made with the West, by curbing Iran’s nuclear program, but his promises to ease social restrictions at home have been sadly lacking.

Tehran’s chief prosecutor said last January, that as many as 70 ‘‘spies’’ were serving sentences in the city’s prisons. Only a few if these cases have been made public. Many of these people are dual nationals who also hold a European or US passport. This, during a time when Rouhani has called for ex-pat Iranians to return home to help rebuild the economy.

One case that is attracting a lot of attention is that of US-Iranian business consultant Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father Baquer, who is a former UNICEF official, who were both sentenced to 10 years in prison for ‘‘espionage and collaboration with the American government’’, last October.  

Another high profile case is that of  Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe,  who is serving a five-year sentence for her alleged involvement in 2009 protests, although exact charges have not been published.  Britain has protested and criticized her detention. She was separated from her two-year-old daughter when she was arrested last April, leaving the child stranded with her grandparents in Iran.

Rouhani published a new ‘‘Charter of Citizens’ Rights’’ in December, preceding his likely bid for re-election in May, but officials have admitted it has no power over conservative-dominated parts of the power structure, meaning the judiciary, and the Revolutionary Guards.


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