Court Battles

Justice Dept charges Iranian professor with violating foreign-agent law

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The Justice Department charged an Iranian professor with U.S. permanent residency with violating the foreign-agent law by acting as an unregistered agent for Iran. 

Kaveh Afrasiabi of Watertown, Mass., was charged with two counts of acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered agent for Iran against the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), according to a complaint unsealed on Tuesday.

Afrasiabi was arrested on Monday and was slated to appear in federal court in Boston on Tuesday morning. He could face up to 10 years in prison.

Afrasiabi, a citizen of Iran, has portrayed himself as a political scientist, professor and expert on foreign affairs while being “secretly employed” by the Iranian government since at least 2007, prosecutors said in a release.

Iranian diplomats at the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations (IMUN) allegedly paid Afrasiabi about $265,000 in checks since 2007. He received health insurance through IMUN’s employee health plans since at least 2011, according to the complaint. 

Afrasiabi is accused of lobbying U.S. officials, including a congressman and the Department of State, and counseling Iranian diplomats without disclosing his employment with the Iranian government. The Justice Department requires those working on behalf of foreign countries to register under the FARA.

“Mr. Afrasiabi never disclosed to a congressman, journalists or others who hold roles of influence in our country that he was being paid by the Iranian government to paint an untruthfully positive picture of the nation,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge William Sweeney said in a statement. 

The complaint also alleges that Afrasiabi received talking points ahead of his television appearances and book and op-ed publications to promote a pro-Iran agenda while acting as an expert on U.S.-Iranian affairs. 

He attributed his success for his works to the Iranian government in an email to the foreign minister, saying, “Without support none of this would have been possible!”

In one instance cited in the complaint, Afrasiabi contacted Iran’s foreign minister and permanent representative to the U.N. and provided advice for “retaliation” against the U.S. for the strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, calling it an “illegal crime.”

Afrasiabi has taught political science at Tehran University, Boston University and Bentley College in Massachusetts and was a visiting scholar at Harvard University, University of California Berkeley, Binghamton University, the Center for Strategic Research in Tehran and Institute for Strategic Studies in Paris, according to his online biography.

Tags FARA foreign agent Foreign Agents Registration Act Iran Iranian government UN United Nations

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