February 9, 2021

By Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

A Revolutionary Court in Iran has sentenced a law professor to seven years in prison after convicting him of “cooperating with an enemy state.”

The U.S.-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reported on February 8 that Reza Eslami, a professor at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University, had been also banned from teaching and leaving the country.

The sentence, subject to appeal, was issued by Judge Abolghassem Salavati, who presides over Branch 15 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court. Salavati was placed under U.S. sanctions in 2019 for issuing harsh sentences against journalists, activists, and others.

Eslami, a dual Iranian-Canadian national and a graduate of Canada’s McGill University, was arrested in May and charged with “cooperating with an enemy state through his participation in a law training course in the Czech Republic,” HRANA reported.

Eslami reportedly dismissed the charges against him as “baseless” in an audio recording released from prison, where he also said that his academic work was free of “political, security and foreign-relations issues.”

A total of 15 people have reportedly been charged over the case. Of those, 14 have been acquitted of the charge of cooperating with the United States.

People close to the professor have said that the training course was organized by a Czech NGO that receives funds from the United States.

They had said that Eslami, who taught human rights and the rule of law before his arrest, had no contacts with anyone from the U.S. administration.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington rose dramatically under the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump, who imposed a campaign of “maximum pressure” against the Islamic republic.

In recent years, Iran has imprisoned a number of academics and dual nationals on espionage charges. They include French-Iranian anthropologist Fariba Adelkhah, who was arrested in June 2019 and given temporary prison leave last October.