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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

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 into custody.

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.

The Iranian 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 and British 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 Judiciary, confirmed his arrest.

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.

The regime has been on an execution spree in recent weeks, on some days killing as many as five political prisoners, many of them Kurds, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in 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 were executed.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran. Contact him by email.