Friday, June 18, 2021

Iranian-British Shia businessman kidnapped in Iraq, handed over to Iran

The old friend of Ayatollah Khomeini was in Iraq to spend the final days of Ramadan in the Shia holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.

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An Iranian-British businessman was abducted by an Iran-backed militia in Iraq and handed over to Iranian authorities on Monday, according to Al Arabiya sources.

The abductee, Mohammad Khatami, was captured along with two others. The two others were then released, but Khatami was handed over to the intelligence branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the sources say.

Khatami, who comes from a prominent Shia religious family, was in Iraq to spend the final days of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in the Shia holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, the sources say.

Khatami’s father was an associate of Iran’s former supreme leader and founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The two studied together in seminaries in the Shia holy cities of Qom and Najaf.

Khatami himself was born in Iraq before the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran but settled in Iran along with Khomeini and was later involved in the establishment of the IRGC soon after the revolution.

In 1988, Khatami defected from the regime. The same year, he was abducted by Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah and handed over to Iran.

Then-supreme leader Khomeini ordered his release following mediation efforts by Khatami’s father.

Khatami then left for Britain, where he settled with his wife and children and started several businesses and became a British citizen with dual nationality.

It is not known what he is being accused of or what charges he is likely to face in Tehran.

Several dual and foreign nationals are currently under arrest in Iran.

Tehran is accused of arresting foreign nationals on trumped-up charges and using them as hostages in an effort to win concessions from other countries.

In 2019, Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam was abducted in Iraq and taken to Iran where he was executed a year later.

British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been imprisoned in Iran for more than five years. Her husband Richard told Al Arabiya that he believed her imprisonment to be linked to a US$558 million debt owed by the UK to Iran over the non-delivery of weaponry ordered by the shah in 1979.

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