Iran arrests British professor from Imperial College London

A British-Iranian academic from Imperial College London has been arrested in Iran, becoming the latest of dozens of dual nationals taken into custody by Tehran since the 2015 nuclear deal.

Abbas Edalat, a professor of computer science and mathematics, was in Iran for an academic workshop when he was arrested on April 15 by the Revolutionary Guard, according to the Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). 

“Iran’s continued arbitrary arrests of dual nationals without transparency and lack of due process is extremely concerning,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the CHRI. 

“The Iranian judiciary and the security establishment, particularly the Revolutionary Guards, are responsible for the well being of these detainees.”

Iran has arrested at least 30 dual nationals since the 2015 nuclear agreement, according to human rights groups.

There are no exact figures on detainees but Iran is believed to be holding at least four British citizens including Mr Edalat. 

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker with the Thomson Reuters foundation, was arrested in April 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian government.  She denies all allegations.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison in Iran
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison in Iran

Kamal Foroughi, a British-Iranian businessman, was arrested in 2011 and later sentenced to eight years in prison on espionage charges. He strenuously maintains his innocence.

Iran also arrested Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American businessman who is believed to hold a UK passport, earlier this year during a clampdown on environmentalists and academics. 

The arrest of Mr Edalat comes at a critical moment for the future of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement. 

Donald Trump must decide by May 12 whether or not he will reimpose US sanctions on Tehran, a move that would effectively send the US crashing out of the deal. 

Iran’s habit of arresting dual nationals is motivated partly by a desire to use the detainees as leverage in negotiations with Western countries, according to analysts. 

Emmanuel Macron has tried to convince Donald Trump to stay in the Iran deal - Credit:  REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Emmanuel Macron has tried to convince Donald Trump to stay in the Iran deal Credit: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Iranians who live in the West are sometimes viewed with deep suspicion by the Revolutionary Guard, who are responsible for hunting for foreign spies in Iran. 

Mr Edalat is known in the UK as an anti-war activist. In 2005 he founded the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII), which opposed Western military intervention and sanctions on Iran. 

The group described itself as an independent human rights group with no links to any governments. 

The CHRI said Revolutionary Guard agents raided Mr Edalat’s home in Tehran and confiscated books, CDs and a computer. 

He is believed to be being held at Evin prison, the notorious Tehran jail where dual nationals are often imprisoned.

There was no immediate response from the Foreign Office.