California man abducted by Iran while traveling through Dubai, family claims

Jamshid Shamahd has been accused of plotting a mosque attack that left 14 dead and hundreds injured

A California man is believed to have been abducted by Iranian authorities while traveling through Dubai, his family told the Associated Press this week.

Jamshid Shamahd, 65, has long been accused by Iran of plotting a 2008 mosque attack that left 14 people dead and injured hundreds, as a member of a small militant unit called Tondar, which operates inside the Kingdom Assembly of Iran. The Los Angeles-based opposition group is not on the U.S. terror list.

However, Shamahd's family has contended that he was merely a spokesperson for the opposition outfit and played no part in any acts of violence in Iran. According to AP, Shamahd was already a target of an attempted assassination scheme inside the U.S. in 2009.

This undated photo provided by the family of Jamshid Sharmahd shows the 65-year-old man from Glendora, California. Iran abducted Sharmahd, a leader of a California-based Iranian militant exile group, while he was in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and apparently smuggled him into Oman before bringing him to the Islamic Republic, his family told The Associated Press on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Iran has only said they detained Sharmahd in what it describes as a "complex operation." (Sharmahd family via AP)

This undated photo provided by the family of Jamshid Sharmahd shows the 65-year-old man from Glendora, California. Iran abducted Sharmahd, a leader of a California-based Iranian militant exile group, while he was in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and apparently smuggled him into Oman before bringing him to the Islamic Republic, his family told The Associated Press on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Iran has only said they detained Sharmahd in what it describes as a "complex operation." (Sharmahd family via AP)

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How he managed to be captured by the regime without his setting foot on Iranian soil remains unclear, and questions are now being raised over the extent to which Iranian intelligence has cemented a presence inside the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“We’re seeking support from any democratic country, any free country," his son Shayan Sharmahd told the AP. "It is a violation of human rights. You can’t just pick someone up in a third country and drag them into your country.”

It is believed that Shamahd – a vocal proponent of reinstating his home country's pre-1979 monarchy – had been transiting through Dubai en route to India for a software-related business meeting. His last message to his family was July 28, and he is said to have checked out of the Premier Inn Dubai International Airport Hotel the following day.

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Tracking data, the AP highlighted, shows him crossing the border into Oman before going dark. Two days later, officials in Tehran announced that they had Shamahd – who suffers from Parkinson's disease – in their custody following a "complex operation" and released a photograph of him blindfolded.

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani adjusts his face mask in a meeting of the national headquarters of the fight against the COVID-19, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, July 18, 2020. He estimated as many as 25 million Iranians could have been infected with the coronavirus since the outbreak's beginning, citing an Iranian Health Ministry study that has so far not been made public, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. Writing in Farsi at top right reads, "The Presidency." (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani adjusts his face mask in a meeting of the national headquarters of the fight against the COVID-19, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, July 18, 2020. He estimated as many as 25 million Iranians could have been infected with the coronavirus since the outbreak's beginning, citing an Iranian Health Ministry study that has so far not been made public, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. Writing in Farsi at top right reads, "The Presidency." (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

While U.S.-based, Shamahd is a citizen of Germany – though Tehran does not recognize dual citizenship of those born in Iran. Specific charges against him have not been unveiled. However, others charged with involvement in the 2008 mosque bombing have been summarily executed.

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The arrest comes as tensions between the United States and Iran escalate, with Washington clamping down on a "maximum pressure" campaign to force Tehran to discontinue any nuclear ambitions. Iran has long been blamed for taking political prisoners in exchange for concessions from Western countries.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.