British-Iranian professor detained by Iran's revolutionary guards

British-Iranian professor detained by Iran's revolutionary guards
3 min read
26 April, 2018
Computer scientist and mathematician Abbas Edalat was one of several people arrested by the Guard over accusations of being part of a "network affiliated with Britain".
The professor travelled to Iran for an academic workshop and was arrested 15 April. [Getty]

A British-Iranian university professor who actively campaigns against military action targeting his homeland has been detained in Iran by the country's hard-line Revolutionary Guards.

Computer scientist and mathematician Abbas Edalat was one of several people arrested by the Guard over accusations of being part of a "network affiliated with Britain," the Fars news agency said.

An unnamed source said that the group was accused of leading 2009 unrest in Iran surrounding the disputed re-election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Fars offered no evidence supporting the allegation.

The British Foreign Office said late on Wednesday night it was "urgently seeking information" after the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran first reported Edalat had been detained.

It's unclear what charges he faces, though typically those arrested by the Guard face espionage or security-related charges and closed-door trials where guilty verdicts come down without the opportunity to defend themselves.

Abbas Edalat is an anti-war activist and founded a group called the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran

Edalat is a professor at Imperial College London, a famed British university that Fars described as "playing a special role in training spies in different disguises to launch espionage operations inside Iran."

Fars offered no evidence to support the allegation. The university did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Edalat travelled to Iran for an academic workshop and was arrested 15 April, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran. He refused to post bail Wednesday, arguing he is innocent of the unknown charges and should be freed, the center said. The Guard also raided his home in Tehran.

"Iran's continued arbitrary arrests of dual nationals without transparency and lack of due process is extremely concerning," Hadi Ghaemi, the center's executive director, said in a statement.

"The Iranian judiciary and the security establishment, particularly the Revolutionary Guard, are responsible for the well-being of these detainees."

Iran does not recognise dual nationalities, so detainees like Edalat cannot receive consular assistance. A UN panel in September described "an emerging pattern involving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of dual nationals" in Iran, which Tehran denied.

Analysts and family members of dual nationals and others detained in Iran say hard-liners in the Islamic Republic's security agencies use the prisoners as bargaining chips in negotiations with the West.

Iran and Britain have been discussing the possible release of some 400 million pounds held by London since the 1979 Islamic Revolution for a tank purchase that never happened.

A prisoner exchange in January 2016 that freed Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and three other Iranian-Americans also saw the US make a $400 million cash delivery to Iran the same day.

That money too involved undelivered military equipment from the shah’s era, though some US politicians have criticised the delivery as a ransom payment.

Outside of the classroom, Edalat is an anti-war activist and founded a group called the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran.

He previously wrote columns for The Guardian newspaper in Britain, his last in December 2011 saying Britain only wanted to "tighten the diplomatic, economic and military noose around the Islamic Republic."

"Unjustified sanctions only pave the road to a military attack on Iran," Edalat wrote. "The West must change course and enter into negotiations in good faith if a catastrophe for the region and the whole world is to be avoided."