Back in January 2012, this blog first reported on the strange case of Mojtabi Atarodi, a professor at Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology who was arrested in December 2011 the moment he landed in Los Angeles on the way to a medical appointment with his brother’s cardiologist. Several months later Atarodi was released on bail with a requirement that he wear a tracking device and remain under house arrest at his brother’s home in the United States.
The charges against Atarodi were (and still are) unclear, but Sharif University shortly after the arrest released a statement that Atarodi was accused of trying to buy basic laboratory equipment. The United States government has never released a statement on the case, which has remained sealed and still does not appear on PACER more than a year after Atarodi’s arrest. PressTV, an Iranian media outlet, reported in January 2013 that Atarodi had been sentenced to 56 months in jail, although I was unable to find any other news story confirming this report.
Just as mysteriously as he was arrested and, perhaps, sentenced, Professor Atarodi has now been released and has returned to Iran. The professor traveled to Tehran by way of Oman, which reportedly was engaged in negotiations to release Atarodi. The government of Oman stated that he had been released for “humanitarian reasons.” The United States government has issued no statement on Atarodi’s release.
The PressTV report on Atarodi’s arrival in Tehran quoted Atarodi as saying:
The US authorities knew about my academic background. Even the prosecutor general told me I should have never been arrested, jailed or tried in the first place. He said he was embarrassed to put me on trial, but he had no choice. He said he did it after receiving orders from Washington.
Even though I have reservations about whether the prosecutor said he was “embarrassed” to put Atarodi on trial, the complete silence by the U.S. government on this case, and the fact that the case still remains sealed, certainly invites speculation that the case against Atarodi may have been, shall we say, less than stellar.