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Homa Hoodfar, Montreal Professor, Detained And Indicted In Iran On Unknown Charges

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TEHRAN, Iran — A Montreal-based university professor being held in an Iranian jail has been indicted on unknown charges.

Iran's semi-official ISNA and Tasnim news agencies quoted Tehran's prosecutor saying Homa Hoodfar was among three dual nationals and a foreigner who had been charged.

The four, who have ties to Canada, Britain and the U.S., are all believed to have been detained by hardliners in Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

The reasons for their separate arrests remain unclear, though the husband of one of them says his family was told by the Guard she'd be released if the British government agreed to their demands.

homa hoodfarHoma Hoodfar is among three dual nationals and a foreigner who has been charged in Iran. (Photo: CP/Concordia University)

Family members and representatives of the four say they did nothing wrong.

Hoodfar, a 65-year-old professor at Montreal's Concordia University, was born in Iran but has been living in Montreal for 30 years.

Her family said she travelled to Iran in February to see family and conduct academic research.

She was initially arrested in March, shortly before she was to return home, but was released on bail. She was arrested again on June 6.

The three others who were indicted on Monday are:

  • Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman who has advocated for closer ties between the two countries and whose father is also held in Tehran;
  • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British woman who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency; and
  • Nizar Zakka, a U.S. permanent resident from Lebanon who has done work for the American government .

Could face closed-door tribunal

Iran does not recognize dual nationalities. In previous cases involving dual nationals, like the detention of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, officials initially announced indictments had been handed down without providing specifics. Later, news organizations with close ties to security services offered details of the charges.

Those detained typically face trial in Iran's Revolutionary Court, a closed-door tribunal that handles cases involving alleged attempts to overthrow the government.

Rezaian was convicted but later released in January as part of a prisoner swap between Iran and the U.S.

While Iranian officials have not publicly demanded another swap, analysts have suggested the detainees might be used by hardliners as bargaining chips.

'A very dark place'

Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, said as much in a statement to journalists on Monday marking the 100th day of his wife's detention.

Ratcliffe said the Guard told his wife's family she would be released as long as the British government reached ``an agreement'' with them. He said they did not elaborate, other than to say it did not involve the recent nuclear deal, which lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for it limiting its atomic program.

His infant daughter, Gabriella, also remains in Iran, as authorities seized her passport.

"That the Iranian authorities are willing to hold a mother and baby hostage for domestic politics and as a bargaining chip in their international negotiations shows that they have reached a very dark place,'' Ratcliffe said.

Two men still unaccounted for

Iranian officials in Tehran could not be reached for comment. Iran's mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Monday's announcement did not include any mention of Namazi's father, Baquer Namazi, a former Iranian and U.N. official in his 80s who is also detained. Also unaccounted for is former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission.

The hardline crackdown in the wake of last year's nuclear deal with world powers has included the detention and sentencing of Iranian poets, filmmakers, artists and others.