Although it has been not been reported very widely in the Western press, on March 12th Iran sentenced Iranian-American Karam Vafadari and Afarin Nayssari to death.
They were originally arrested on charges of serving alcohol in their home and hosting mixed-gender parties. Vafadari is Zoroastrian and thus is technically not bound to these Islamic laws. Minority religions in Iran are protected in their Constitution.
Kateh Vafadari, the sister who lives in the USA claims that the case is really about “extortion, property seizure and national security threats“. Former Italian ambassador to Iran, Roberto Toscano, agrees:
“The reason must be a different one…political blackmail toward the US (of which they are also citizens), envy for their success, intimidation toward the Zoroastrian community, desire to grab their properties, [and] repression of contemporary art (the reported destruction of works of art at their home would point in this direction).”
Earlier this month these charges appear to have been changed to now include attempting to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran and recruiting spies. The Center for Human Rights in Iran says these charges are completely without evidence, and notes:
The imprisonment of Vafadari and Nayssari also appears motivated by greed: the Islamic Republic has a long and documented history of unlawfully confiscating private property, especially that belonging to those with whom the authorities do not favor. The family of Vafadari reported continuous calls right after the couple’s arrest demanding money, and noted that the charges brought would allow the seizure of the couple’s extensive properties.
FDD’s Senior Iran Analyst Tzvi Kahn agrees:
The prognosis is not good. The New York Times notes:
The continued inclusion of Iran among the six predominantly Muslim nations in Mr. Trump’s revised visa ban has only aggravated matters, according to Iranian-American advocates. Iran, which has described the ban as insulting, has retaliated by prohibiting most American visitors.
“The problem is that no one has a clue about Trump administration policy,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran. With the American prisoners in Iran, he said, “there is limbo, really.”