Iran Arrests European Citizen in Connection with Antigovernment Protests

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Jan 3, 2018
Iran Arrests European Citizen in Connection with Antigovernment Protests

Iranian authorities have arrested a European national in the western province of Lorestan on charges of “organizing” antigovernment protests in the city of Borujerd, the Iranian media quoted local officials as saying. “During the latest incidents in the city of Borujerd, a European national has been arrested,” Hamid Reza Bu al-Hassani, the head of the judicial branch in the city, said in an interview with Tasnim News Agency, an outlet affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps. “This individual who played the role of leading and directing the rioters had been trained in espionage organizations in Europe and traveled to Borujerd in order to organize the unrests,” al-Hassani added.  

But the director-general of Lorestan’s Judiciary office said that individual arrested is an Iranian national who lives in Europe. In an interview with Mehr News Agency, Ali Sabzwari said the person was arrested while he was filming a protest rally in Borujerd city.

Comment: Since the start of the antigovernment protests last week, Iranian leaders have dismissed the popular protests as a foreign conspiracy instead of trying to understand the Iranians’ legitimate grievances about economic and political stagnation in the country. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei yesterday blamed foreign “enemies” for the unrest. Leaders of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards also claimed that Iran’s foreign rivals and Iranian opposition groups outside the country have hatched the “plot” to destabilize the Islamic Republic. The Rouhani government also joined forces with hardliners in linking the popular protests to outsiders.

This means that dual national Iranians are now at an even greater risk in Iran than before. In November, Reuters reported that the Revolutionary Guards had arrested at least 30 dual nationals during the past two years, twice the number documented earlier. Nineteen of the 30 arrested were reportedly European citizens.

The Iranian authorities claim that they arrest dual nationals on security grounds, but the Revolutionary Guards has used dual nationals as bargaining chips to seek political concessions and monetary ransoms from European and American governments. Regime officials have reportedly demanded more than $500 million from the United Kingdom for the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian charity worker imprisoned in Iran on spurious charges since April 2016. The money is allegedly a decades-old debt for a tank deal Iran had signed with the British government.

In August 2016, the Obama administration reluctantly conceded that it delayed a $400 million payment to Iran “to retain maximum leverage” and ensure that three American prisoners were released the same day. Many Republican lawmakers described the payment as a “ransom.”