Aug 28, 10:58 AM EDT

Iran confirms arrest of member of negotiation team

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's judiciary on Sunday confirmed the brief detention of a member of Iran's negotiation team with world powers on suspicion of "infiltration," the official IRNA news agency reported.

On Wednesday, hard-line news outlets said authorities detained a dual Iranian-Canadian national, Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani, a member of the Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants in Canada.

The Sunday report by IRNA quoted judiciary spokesman, Gholamhosein Mohseni Ejehi, as saying, "The report is correct. He was released based on bail. Yet, his charge is not proved."

He neither elaborated on the case nor identified the suspect by name. However IRNA called the suspect, an "infiltrating element."

Esfahani reportedly worked as a member of a parallel team working on lifting economic sanctions under one of the main negotiators for last year's landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. He was also an adviser to the head of Iran's Central Bank.

After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Esfahani reportedly served as a member of the Iranian team working at the Hague on disputes between Iran and the United States over pre-revolution purchases of military equipment from the U.S. by Iran.

On Monday, Iran's Foreign Ministry denied the report and said none of the members of its nuclear negotiation team was detained.

Diana Khaddaj, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada, the government department that oversees diplomatic matters, said Sunday week that it was aware of reports of a Canadian citizen's detention when asked about Esfahani. She declined to elaborate due to privacy concerns.

It remains unclear why Esfahani is under investigation, though dual nationals have been increasingly targeted by security forces since the nuclear deal and accused of a variety of security-related crimes.

However Esfahani's release on bail suggests his case is not considered serious by Iran's Iranian judiciary, which traditionally does not offer bail to suspects accused of major crimes.

The nuclear deal remains a sore spot for Iranian hardliners, but it has boosted the popularity of moderate President Hassan Rouhani and helped his supporters make major gains in March parliamentary elections.


Associated Press senior correspondent Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.

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