Hard-line publication claims visiting
American was opposition James Bond
Aug, 13, 2016 (FDI) -
Why was yet another American taken hostage in Iran?
Hard-liners predictably claim he was a U.S. spy--and now are saying
he's an agent of the exiled opposition.
Gholamreza "Robin" Shahini traveled to Iran this May to visit his
family in the northern city of Gorgan after graduating from San
Diego State University with a degree in international security and
conflict resolution. He had gone back to school after years of
running a pizza shop, and was 46 years old when regime agents burst
into his mother's home, presented a search warrant, and took him
For two weeks, his girlfriend in the United States, who was in
contact with his family in Iran, had no news what had happened to
him. The search warrant presented to Reza's sister accused him of
unspecified "crimes against the state." The LA Times cited
a friend who speculated on Facebook that he might have been
detained because of online comments criticizing the human rights
record of the Islamic regime.
continues to arrest U.S.-Iranian dual nationals despite the
hostage swap and
ransom payment last January. Shahini is the third U.S.-citizen
currently held in Iran. The regime has also arrested Canadian
citizens in recent months.
Secretary of Sate John Kerry and his spokesperson, John Kirby,
apparently just wish Shahini would go away. Both have
refused to answer questions from reporters. The State
Department did not return several calls by FDI asking for comment.
"All I hear from Secretary Kerry is 'human rights, human rights,'
and yet when an American citizen is taken hostage in Iran, what do
they do? Nothing," Shahini's girlfriend told FDI.
Shahini's arrest was first
reported on July 21. Three days later, former intelligence
minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i, now spokesman for the
But it wasn't until last Wednesday (Aug. 10) that his lawyer was
allowed to visit him, after he had a medical emergency. "Robin has
severe asthma and they took away his medication," his girlfriend
said. "I sent all that information to the lawyer. He is allergic to
cigarette smoke. So then they put him in the place in the jail where
all the criminals go to smoke!"
Shahini told his lawyer that his interrogators were accusing him of
being a spy for the United States.
A hard-line Iranian internet publication
published on Friday two
photographs of Shahini, apparently taken from his laptop,
which had been seized by the authorities. The first shows him
shaking hands with former president Abolhassan Banisadr in
Banisadr's residence in Versailles, France. The second shows him at
a conference table to Reza Pahlav, son of the former shah.
The article claims that Reza was "commissioned by the National
Council to reconcile Bani Sadr to the Pahlavis." The article also
claimed that Reza traveled to Iran at the request of the U.S. intelligence
services "on a mission from the U.S. government... to create chaos
in the country."
The full name of Reza Pahlavi's organization is the Iran National Council for Free
Elections. It promotes reconcillation and cooperation among
all democratic factions of the Iranian opposition, as does FDI.
Neither Banisadr nor Reza Pahlavi has confirmed the authenticity of
the photographs, and Shahini's girlfriend told FDI that he had never
been a supporter of either politician. But a 2009 trip to Iran
during the Green Movement protests "was a turning point for Robin"
and made him more aware of the human rights situation inside Iran.
In an ominous development, Shahini's family say he has been placed
in the Quarantine ward in isolation from other prisoners. Families
of other political prisoners note that they have been called to
visit their loved ones in the isolation ward shortly before they
Kenneth R. Timmerman is Executive Director of the Foundation
for Democracy in Iran. Contact him by email.