01 An Iranian-American gallery owner and his wife were handed stiff sentences by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court.
The court convicted Karan Vafadari and Afarin Nayssari, a wealthy couple known for their lavish parties in the Iranian capital Tehran, of espionage and other charges. Vafadari, who has consistently denied the allegations, was sentenced to 27 years in prison, 124 lashes, and a cash fine of $243,000, according to a letter he wrote from prison that was published online Tuesday by the Center for Human Rights in Iran. His wife, who holds a U.S. green card, received 16 years in prison. The court confiscated all of Vafadari’s assets, citing a rarely used provision of Iranian law that allows such seizures from dual citizens. The couple, who owned the Aun Gallery, were originally arrested in July 2016 for violating Islamic laws that forbid serving alcohol and prohibit men and women from mixing. But because the couple are adherents of Zoroastrianism, an ancient pre-Islamic religion, they were exempt from the Islamic rules. Tehran prosecutors subsequently added the espionage charges. Vafadari’s son, who lives in Atlanta, called the Iranian justice system “opaque” and said his father and stepmother would appeal. A U.S. official called for the couple’s release. Iranian officials said Washington was not engaging in negotiations over a potential prisoner swap.