Original story/background: 7/22/16:
On May 25, Mr. Robin Shahini from San Diego California visited his mom, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, in Iran. He had a plane ticket to return to the US on July 25th. However, his girlfriend had not heard from him since July 10th. She was able to get in contact with his family in Iran and they informed her that Mr. Shahini was picked up by the Iranian police. It is believed that he was taken by the police for Facebook comments that he made about human rights issues in Iran. His girlfriend noted that Mr. Shahini’s passion was peace, international security, and human rights and that he made comments about not only Iran but many countries with human rights issues. Source: Daily Mail: American citizen arrested in Iran while visiting his sick mom after criticizing the hardline Islamic regime’s human rights record on Facebook
Update: 7/27/16: Prisoners used as bargaining chips
Iran does not recognize dual nationality therefore Western embassies cannot visit detained prisoners. Officials are unsure why Mr. Shahini was detained. When those of Iranian descent and are of dual citizenship are arrested and imprisoned in Iran, Iranian authorities accuse the detainees of collaborating with hostile governments and espionage. According to families, diplomats and former prisoners, some detainees are kept and used as bargaining chips for future prisoner exchanges. Source: Reuters: U.S. looking into reports of Iranian-American detained in Iran
Update: 7/27/16: Robin Shaini’s background
Shahini is the son of a fruit and vegetable vendor who emigrated to the United States in 2000. He operated a pizzeria and car repair shop. The pizzeria failed due to the economic recession and he sold the repair shop to become a full-time student. He earned a bachelor’s degree in international conflict resolution and was on track to enter graduate school. He became a naturalized citizen in 2009. Source: Stars and Stripes: American detained in Iran is fourth dual national in five months to be arrested
Update: 10/25/16: Robin Shahini sentenced in Iran
A dual Iranian-American national says he has been sentenced to 18 years in prison in Iran for allegedly collaborating with a hostile government.
Robin Shahini told Vice News in a telephone interview that he had “just laughed” after hearing the sentence.
The 46-year-old graduate student from in San Diego was held in July while visiting his sick mother in Iran.
Last week, two other Iranian-Americans were convicted on similar charges.
A British-Iranian charity worker, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, was imprisoned on secret charges last month.
In the interview with Vice News from prison, Mr Shahini said his arrest by Revolutionary Guards personnel in Gorgan, about 300km north-east of Tehran, on 11 July was a “Terrifying moment“.
Mr Shahini, who emigrated to the US in 2000, denied collaborating with a hostile government, but admitted supporting the mass protests that broke out in Iran in 2009 after the disputed re-election of then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Whatever information they had is all the pictures I posted in Facebook, in my web blog, and they use all those evidence to accuse me,” he said.
Mr Shahini said he planned to go on hunger strike until he was released.
“We reaffirm our calls on Iran to respect and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, cease arbitrary and politically motivated detentions and ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings,” it told the Associated Press news agency.
The accord has yet to yield significant economic benefits for Iran, and hardliners are reportedly determined not to let it lead to greater rapprochement with the US. Source: BBC: Iran ‘jails dual US-Iranian national Robin Shahini for 18 years