Family denounces 'sham trial' of German Jamshid Sharmahd held in Iran

Family denounces 'sham trial' of German Jamshid Sharmahd held in Iran
The family of Jamshid Sharmahd say he was illegally abducted while he travelled in the Gulf, and that his trial is a sham.
4 min read
07 February, 2022
Sharmahd, dressed in a striped Iranian prison uniform, appeared in court on Sunday [Getty]

The trial of an Iran-born German national jailed in Iran since 2020 is a sham, his family said Monday, accusing Tehran of illegally abducting him abroad while he travelled in the Gulf region.

The family of Jamshid Sharmahd, 66, says that he was abducted by the Iranian security services in 2020 while in transit in Dubai and vehemently denies the accusations against him.

He is one of over a dozen Western nationals -- including American, Austrian, British, French and German citizens -- still held in Iran as talks to revive the 2015 deal over Tehran's nuclear drive reach an acute phase.

Sharmahd, dressed in a striped Iranian prison uniform, appeared in court on Sunday charged with spreading "corruption on earth", which carries the death penalty.

"This was pure propaganda, a show trial, a kangaroo court. It is very disturbing," his daughter Gazelle Sharmahd, who is based in the US, told AFP.

"All of the charges are fabricated charges. They are scapegoating my dad who is innocent," she added.

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Iran accuses Jamshid Sharmahd of being involved in the April 12, 2008, bombing of a mosque in Shiraz in southern Iran, which killed 14 people.

"My dad has never seen his lawyer. The lawyer did not have the right to look at his file," said Gazelle Sharmahd.

"This is a great violation of rights. How can you try someone without them letting them review the evidence against them?" she asked, adding that German representatives were not allowed inside the hearing.

- 'Great lengths' -

Sharmahd and his family moved to Germany after Iran's Islamic Revolution, and then on to Los Angeles in the United States after their children grew up.

A software designer, he became involved with an anti-regime group known as Kingdom Assembly of Iran and designed their website, the family says.

They say a software glitch a decade ago exposed his work in the group. This meant he could no longer stay anonymous and became the subject of Iranian propaganda, including on state TV, and was the target of an assassination plot in 2009.

"They have been going to great lengths to get my dad," said Gazelle Sharmahd.

He travelled to Mumbai in India in March 2020 to search for business opportunities, but got stuck by border closures as the pandemic erupted.

In June, India's borders re-opened and he sought to return to the US via Amsterdam, but was not allowed to board the plane as he was not a US resident. He travelled on to Germany, accumulating more debt.

He then planned to head back to Mumbai, taking a flight from Frankfurt to Dubai. He then had a video call with his wife on July 28, 2020, from his hotel room in Dubai, their last such communication.

- 'Complete shock' -

"After that video call my dad stopped responding for three days. Radio silence," said his daughter.

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A location tracker showed his wife he was moving towards Oman. "That freaked her out," his daughter Gazelle said.

"On July 31 she got a text message from him saying 'I am OK, I will contact you'. That was unusual for him."

"The next day we were told by family members to watch YouTube. There was a clip -- my dad was blindfolded and forced to confess to crimes that he did not commit."

"This video was a complete shock. We found out he is in the hands of the Islamic regime."

There was then no news from him, and his family feared he could be dead but he then called for the first time from prison in September 2020.

Iran announced his arrest in August 2020 in a "complex operation", without specifying how, where or when he was seized.

Activists accuse Iran of abducting regime opponents in a bid to put them on trial in Iran on charges that could see them sentenced to death, such as France-based Ruhollah Zam who was executed in December 2020.