Mahan Abedin, a British-Iranian dual national, has been arrested, according to an anonymous source who spoke with IranWire from Tehran. Abedin, whose analyses of Iran’s security and foreign policies have often met with criticism from opponents of the regime, has reportedly been accused of being a “co-conspirator” in an “infiltration” operation. 

In recent years, Iranian media have referred to Abedin as the “director of the London Center for Terrorism Studies” and a “security analyst,” and he is also listed as a director of Dysart Consulting. 

Abedin’s analyses of Iran’s security and foreign policies have often been regarded as sympathetic to the Islamic Republic, and opponents to the regime have portrayed him on social media as an apologist for and defendant of Iran’s policies. 

Abedin’s book, “Iran Resurgent: The Rise and Rise of the Shia State,” is due for publication in September 2018 by London-based Hurst Publishers.

An anonymous source in London told IranWire that after rumors about his arrest surfaced, Abedin contacted his publisher and told them that he had been entangled in some “family problems” and that he would be out of contact for a period of time. But IranWire’s Tehran source believes that Abedin has been forced to present the message to his publisher to cover the fact of his arrest. The source points out that the case resembles that of Kaveh Madani, who recently resigned as deputy head of Iran’s Environmental Protection Agency and left Iran after a series of interrogations. Following Madani’s arrest, security agents took Madani to his office and, in the presence of the agents, he recorded a video and posted it on Instagram to let the media know that he was not in jail.

IranWire’s source in Tehran says that Mahan Abedin might have be arrested in connection with Abbas Edalat, another British-Iranian dual national who was recently arrested in Tehran. Edalat, a professor at London's Imperial College, was reportedly detained on April 15 while attending an academic workshop in Tehran. Confirming the news, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, Iranian Judiciary’s spokesman, spoke to reporters about Edalat: "I confirm his arrest on security charges, but I am unable to give details.”

A “Network” of British Spies

Abbas Edalat, who had recently arrived in Tehran, was arrested at his family’s home. According to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), the Iranian Revolutionary Guards detained him, as well as confiscating a computer, CDs and notebooks during the arrest. On Thursday, April 26, the semi-official Fars News Agency, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, reported that Edalat was part of a "network" of British spies whose members have been identified and arrested.

According to media reports, Edalat, a professor of computer science and mathematics, had traveled to Iran to take part in meetings at the Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences. The institute is part of Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology. Its director is Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary of the judiciary’s High Council for Human rights and the brother of Chief Judiciary Sadegh Larijani and Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament.

According to the website Mashregh News, Abbas Edalat was scheduled to attend a party on March 25 and a ceremony celebrating the 29th anniversary of the foundation of the institute, but no reports or photographs covering the events have been published. 

Edalat is a founder of the US-based Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII), an advocacy group that opposes foreign intervention in the Islamic Republic, according to CHRI. Nevertheless, some powerful institutions in Iran believe that entities such as CASMII are used as a cover by the “enemy” to infiltrate Iran’s policy-making centers.

“Sedition” and “Deviancy”

On April 27, in a lengthy report about Abbas Edalat [Persian link], Mashregh News named Mahan Abedin as Edalat’s co-conspirator. “Recently, members of an infiltration network run by the UK have been arrested,” read the report. “It is said that they have been in contact with some leading elements of Sedition and Deviancy movements.”

Iran’s conservative media use “sedition” and “deviancy”  to refer to, respectively, reformists, and to the supporters of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The claim that an English “infiltration network” had been in contact with supporters of Ahmadinejad emerged after recent claims by Ahmadinejad and his associates that the UK had infiltrated the Iranian judiciary.

The other thing that Abbas Edalat and Mahan Abedin have in common is, of course, that they are both dual nationals. Over the last three years, more than 30 people with dual nationality have been arrested in Iran. Most of them have been arrested by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Unit, which has claimed that dual nationals are a major conduit for infiltration by the “enemy.”

But the other reason for his arrest could be purely political. Senior and mid-level officials of the Hassan Rouhani administration have strong ties with foreign media and academic circles, and the Revolutionary Guards could be aiming to severe these ties. And clearly these arrests have had a chilling effect on Iranian expatriates who might have been thinking of returning to Iran to serve their country of birth.

Over the last few years, Rouhani’s government has conducted a vast campaign to encourage Iranian expatriates to return to the country, but the arrests of dual nationals have undermined both these propaganda efforts and the credibility of Rouhani’s government. There is good reason to believe that the Revolutionary Guards will continue to arrest and discover more “infiltration networks” linked to dual nationals in an effort to strike at Rouhani’s plans, and to ensure his attempts to open up the country to external influences do not succeed. 

 

More on the persecution of dual nationals in Iran:

Environmental Expert Kaveh Madani Leaves Iran, April 2018

An Iranian Patriot Vs. a Corrupt System, April 2018

“All he did was defend his country”, April 2018

News of Iranian-Canadian's "Suicide" in Prison Shocks Iran, February 2018

Iran-UK Debt Dispute Keeps Nazanin in Jail, February 2018

Iranian Courts Upholds Harsh Jail Terms for Dual Nationals, September 2017

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