Iran has sentenced an Iranian-American art dealer and his wife to prison for being Zoroastrians, a New York-based human rights group said Wednesday. It is the latest case in which Tehran has imprisoned people of Iranian descent who hold dual citizenship.
The art dealer, Karan Vafadari, was sentenced to 27 years in prison, while his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssar, who has permanent residency status in the United States, received a 16-year sentence, said the group, the Center for Human Rights in Iran.
The sentences have yet to be reported in Iran. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The two were arrested by Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in July 2016. Little information has come out about their case since then.
Early Wednesday, the Center for Human Rights in Iran said it had received a letter dated Jan. 21 that Mr. Vafadari wrote to it from Evin Prison in Tehran. In it, Mr. Vafadari said he was sentenced to prison “last week” by Judge Abolghassem Salavati of Tehran’s hard-line Revolutionary Court. Judge Salavati is known for tough sentences and has heard other politically charged cases, including one in which he sentenced a Washington Post journalist, Jason Rezaian, to prison.
Zoroastrianism is a pre-Islamic ancient religion in Iran that is in theory protected under the Iranian Constitution. However, its adherents can face discrimination in Iran, whose government is overseen by Shiite clerics.