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In this file photo taken on February 6, 2022, Jamshid Sharmahd, who is accused by the Iranian government of being a leader of the US-based "Tondar terrorist group" behind a deadly attack in Iran in 2008, attends the first hearing of his trial in Tehran. Image Credit: AFP

PARIS: At least 17 Western passport-holders are detained in Iran, most of them dual nationals, including Jamshid Sharmahd - an Iranian-German sentenced to death on Tuesday.

Tehran insists all have been subject to proper judicial process.

Germany condemned as “inhuman” the death sentence for Sharmahd who supporters say was abducted abroad and forcibly returned to Iran for a show trial.

The Tehran Revolutionary Court convicted Sharmahd, 67, in connection with the deadly bombing of a mosque in 2008, the judiciary’s Mizan Online website reported.

Iranian authorities announced in August 2020 that Sharmahd, who is also a German national and a US resident, was arrested in what they described as a “complex operation” without specifying how, where or when he was seized.

The court’s ruling was “absolutely unacceptable”, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a statement, promising a “strong reaction” to the decision.

“Not only is the death penalty cruel, inhuman and degrading, but Jamshid Sharmahd has never had anything approaching a fair trial,” Baerbock said.

“We call on Iran to remedy these shortcomings in the appeals process, correct the verdict accordingly and refrain from the death penalty,” she said.

Rights groups and supporters however say they are innocent, and that they are being held as part of a policy of hostage-taking to extract concessions from foreign governments. Activists fear there may be more cases yet to be confirmed.

The following Westerners are in detention

United States

- Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi has been in prison since his arrest in October 2015. His father Mohammad Baquer Namazi, a former Unicef official, was arrested in February 2016 when he went to Iran to try to free his son.

They were both sentenced to 10 years on spying charges in October 2016. Baquer, under house arrest since 2018, had his sentence commuted in 2020, and was finally granted permission to leave the country for medical treatment in October.

- Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American who also holds British nationality, was arrested alongside other environmentalists in January 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in jail for “conspiring with America”.

- Karan Vafadari, an Iranian-American member of the Zoroastrian minority faith, was arrested in June 2016 on allegations of spying and released on bail in July 2018. He is still unable to leave Iran.

- Iranian-American venture capitalist Emad Sharqi was sentenced to 10 years in prison on spying charges, Iranian media reported in 2021, saying he was captured trying to flee the country.


British-Iranian labour rights activist Mehran Raoof was arrested in October 2020 and is being held in solitary confinement, Amnesty International said.


- German-Iranian grandmother Nahid Taghavi was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in jail in August 2021 after being arrested at her Tehran apartment in October 2020 and held in solitary confinement.

- Jamshid Sharmahd, 67, an Iranian-German, was captured by Iran in August 2020. His family have rubbished the accusations. He was sentenced to death on Tuesday “on the charge of corruption on earth through planning and directing terrorist acts”.


- Tourist Benjamin Briere was arrested in Iran in May 2020, allegedly while flying a drone and taking photographs in a prohibited area, accusations his sisters says are “baseless”. He was jailed for eight years on spying charges.

- French teachers’ union official Cecile Kohler and her partner Jacques Paris were detained in May 2022 while sightseeing in Iran. They are accused of spying.

- Banking consultant Louis Arnaud was arrested in September 2022 while visiting Iran. Described as “a great traveller”, he is jailed in Evin prison in “extremely harsh” detention conditions, according to his parents.

- Bernard Phelan, who also has Irish citizenship, was detained in October while on a trip as part of his consulting activities in Iran for a tour operator. He had started refusing food and drink in January, before suspending it at the request of his family. But his sister said this month that his health “continues to deteriorate”.

- A sixth French national was detained in Iran but the identity and the circumstances of their arrest have never been made public.

- Austria

- Iranian-Austrian Massud Mossaheb was detained in January 2019 and jailed for 10 years on charges of spying for Israel and Germany.

- Iranian-Austrian businessman Kamran Ghaderi was arrested in January 2016 and sentenced for working with hostile states to 10 years in jail, after a trial Amnesty called “grossly unfair”.


- Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali, a resident of Sweden, was arrested during a visit to Iran in April 2016 and sentenced to death in 2017 on charges of spying for Israel’s Mossad.

He was granted Swedish citizenship while in jail. His hanging was postponed but his family says he remains on death row.

- Habib Chaab, an Iranian-Swedish dissident, disappeared during a visit to Turkey in October 2020, turning up in Iran accused of being a leading figure in an Arab separatist group and of perpetrating bomb attacks.