November 25, 2020
The daughter of a U.S.-based Iranian-German dissident captured by Iran four months ago as he traveled in the Gulf says Iranian authorities have treated him harshly, denying him access to a family-chosen lawyer and televising new images of him making an apparent forced confession.
In a Monday interview with VOA Persian from Los Angeles where her family lives, the daughter of dissident Jamshid Sharmahd said an Iranian lawyer hired by her family in early October has been barred by Iran’s judiciary from meeting her father or accessing his file since then.
“The judiciary has told our lawyer that she cannot meet my father or see his charge sheet because his case is in an investigation phase at this time,” Gazelle Sharmahd said.
Iran typically allows only lawyers on a government-approved list to work on cases involving alleged national security offenses at the investigative stage.
Sharmahd said her family’s lawyer, whose name she withheld for privacy reasons, is not on the government list. But she said the lawyer pledged to keep trying to access her father’s file.
Germany’s Tehran embassy also has offered to help the lawyer’s effort, Sharmahd said.
VOA cannot independently verify the lawyer’s activities as it is barred from reporting inside the Islamist-ruled country.
Jamshid Sharmahd went missing in late July as he was making a stop in Dubai while trying to book an onward flight to India for a business trip, according to his family.
Iranian state media reported on August 1 that Iranian intelligence agents had captured the 65-year-old Iranian-German dual national in a “complex operation” without specifying exactly when or where he had been detained. On the same day, Iranian state TV aired a program in which the dissident appeared to confess to masterminding a 2008 bomb attack that killed 14 Iranians and wounded 215 others at a mosque in the southwestern city of Shiraz.
Sharmahd’s family has denied his involvement in violence. It has described him as a spokesperson for Tondar, an Iranian opposition group seeking to replace the nation’s ruling Shiite clerics who seized power in a 1979 Islamic Revolution with a revived monarchy.
Tondar, also known as Kingdom Assembly of Iran, has said its operatives carried out some attacks inside Iran in recent decades, but its U.S.-based members have tried to distance themselves from those incidents.
Iranian state TV frequently has broadcast confessions of dissidents who accuse authorities of pressuring or torturing them into incriminating themselves in front of cameras while in detention.
A second state TV program with images of Sharmahd aired on November 18, showing him being led blindfolded to a room before he removes the blindfold and speaks in front of a camera.
My dad has been kidnapped and incarcerated for almost 4 months under false accusations, unknown conditions, and without any lawyer! The Islamic Regime used his coerced confessions to create a shameful propaganda TV special on channel 3 to promote their „powerful Intelligence“. https://t.co/xgYUsHZX4o
— Gazelle (@GazelleSharmahd) November 20, 2020
His daughter Gazelle tweeted that Iran again was using what she called a “coerced confession to create a shameful propaganda TV special”.
She told VOA the images were the first she had seen of her father since the August 1 video, but she was not sure when they were filmed.
The dissident’s daughter said the only communication he has had with his U.S.-based family has been in three phone calls that he made on September 22, October 13 and October 28.
Gazelle Sharmahd said her father revealed little in the first two phone calls about his status besides saying he was in Tehran, as he could be heard asking people who apparently were nearby whether he could share certain information. She said he revealed in the third call that he was at Tehran’s Evin prison but added that she was not sure if Evin was his true location.
The dissident’s family has repeatedly expressed concern about his health, saying he requires medication for diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
“You don’t know if somebody is pointing a gun to his head and making him say things,” Gazelle Sharmahd said. “So I want somebody whom I trust to see how he is doing physically, and after that, I want somebody to access his file and see what are the charges against him.”
Germany’s Washington embassy did not respond to a VOA request for comment about what help German diplomats in Iran may be providing to the captured dissident.
German newspaper Die Welt reported earlier this month that Berlin was aware of four German citizens detained in Iranian prisons. It said the German government made the disclosure in response to a request from Iran-born German Greens party lawmaker Omid Nouripour. The identities of the four detained Germans were not disclosed.
The United States last commented on Sharmahd’s case when news of his capture broke on August 1. Reuters cited a State Department spokeswoman as saying the U.S. was aware of those reports.
“The Iranian regime has a long history of detaining Iranians and foreign nationals on spurious charges. We urge Iran to be fully transparent and abide by all international legal standards,” the U.S. official said at the time.