A British-Iranian academic has been arrested by security forces in Tehran, according to Iran’s semi-official FARS news agency, potentially further stoking tensions with the West ahead of US President Donald Trump’s decision on whether to renew the Iran nuclear deal.
Abbas Edalat, an award-winning professor of computer science and mathematics, was arrested on Thursday, FARS reported. He is accused of being part of a British-affiliated anti-Iran group that allegedly launched espionage operations and had contacts with leaders of mass anti-government protests in 2009, the news agency said.
The British Foreign Office is “urgently seeking information from the Iranian authorities following reports of the arrest of a British-Iranian dual national,” a spokesman told CNN.
A spokesperson for Imperial College London, where Edalat has worked since 1989, said that the scholar was “a valued colleague” and that the university is “understandably concerned for his welfare.”
Edalat is one of three British-Iranian citizens currently detained in Iran. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in 2016 and remains in jail, while Kamal Foroughi has been held in Tehran since 2011.
At least three people with dual US and Iranian citizenship are also currently detained in Iran.
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has condemned the arrest of dual nationals by Iran.
“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, in a statement published Wednesday.
The CHRI, which describes itself as “an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization working to protect and promote human rights in Iran,” said the scholar was first detained by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on April 15 while visiting Iran to attend an academic workshop, and remained under arrest 10 days later.
A founding member of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran, Edalat addressed a Stop the War Coalition meeting in London in 2011 where he condemned what he described as the “multi-pronged war campaign by the West” carried out against Iran since 1979, which he said was designed to “overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
In an article for the Guardian newspaper the same year, he described the western attitude to Iran as “hawkish” and urged the West to “change course and enter into negotiations in good faith.”
Addressing Trump’s proposed travel ban last year in an interview with Times Higher Education, Edalat said the policy would make dual-national academics “think twice” about visiting the US. He said he had already stopped submitting research papers to US conferences in 2016 due to visa restrictions, but that the prospect of “more vetting” could deter others too.
CNN’s Flora Charner contributed to this report.