UK-based academic held in Iran for espionage: report

Professor and outspoken critic of US policy over Iran is held and accused of espionage

Abbas Edalat was held on April 15 after travelling to Iran for a workship. Imperial College London
Abbas Edalat was held on April 15 after travelling to Iran for a workship. Imperial College London

A British-Iranian university professor who campaigns against US sanctions targeting Iran has been arrested and accused of espionage by the country’s hardline Revolutionary Guard, according to state media.

Abbas Edalat, an award-winning computer scientist and mathematician, was one of several people arrested by the Guard accused of being part of a “network affiliated with Britain” and linked to unrest surrounding the 2009 re-election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to the semi-official Fars agency.

Prof Edalat is one of at least three British dual nationals held in Iran and comes amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over the uncertain future of the Iran nuclear deal. At least 30 dual nationals are believed to have been arrested by the Guard since the signing of the agreement in July 2015.

Prof Edalat was arrested on April 15 when he travelled to Iran for an academic workshop, according to the New-York based Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). The Guard also raided his home in Tehran and confiscated his belongings including a computer and notebook, according to the group.

It said the academic was brought before a court and claimed that he was innocent of any crimes and should be freed.

He is the second academic from London-based Imperial College targeted by the Guard. Kaveh Madani was forced to leave Iran and leave his job as deputy head of the government’s environment agency following pressure from hardliners.

“It looks like the Revolutionary Guard is showing a very strange sensitivity towards Imperial College,” said Hadi Ghaemi of the CHRI. “It just shows a very simple-minded understanding of academic institutions.”


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Prof Edalat, 63, has worked at London’s Imperial College for 29 years. “We are understandably concerned for his welfare following reports of his arrest in Iran and we are urgently seeking further information,” said the university in a statement.

Prof Edalat was a founder of the “Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran”, a group which regularly posts news articles critical of the US and its allies.

Last year, he told a website that he had stopped submitting research papers to US conferences after Donald Trump issued a travel ban on mostly Muslim-majority countries, including Iran.

He also authored a series of comment pieces for The Guardian newspaper between 2007 and 2011 in which he criticised US policy over Iran. “Iran itself has been targeted for many years by a series of western and UK policies that are gross violations of international law,” he wrote in one 2011 column.

Neighbours at the residential block in upmarket Notting Hill where he lived reported seeing Mr Edalat two weeks ago just before he travelled to Iran. He was “charming and easy going – a lovely, lovely man,” said one man, who declined to be named.

Published: April 26, 2018 08:46 PM


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