Iran urged freed American to go after contacts

TEHRAN, Iran—An Iranian-American businessman freed after more than two years in an Iranian prison on accusations of passing money to a rebel group claimed Wednesday that officials in Tehran have urged him to prove his innocence by going after the men he says duped him.

Reza Taghavi, 71, was arrested by Iranian authorities and accused of being connected to a 2008 mosque bombing in the southern city of Shiraz, which killed 14 people. He denied any role.

Taghavi—who regularly visits Iran to conduct business and see family—was jailed on allegations he passed $200 to someone suspected of links to the rebel group known as Tondar, which seeks to topple the Islamic system and was implicated in the Shiraz attack.

Taghavi was never formally charged and denies knowingly supporting the faction. He was freed Saturday after 29 months in prison.

On the eve of his departure from Tehran, he told Associated Press Television News in an interview that Iranian officials pressed him to sue his contacts.

“They told me, ‘Let’s see what you are going to do to show that you are innocent. If you go after them, it means you are innocent,” he said. “Go after them and file a suit against them. … Go ahead and do it. Let us see to prove it.'”

As one of the conditions of his release, Taghavi met with victims of the Shiraz blast and relatives of some of those killed in a scripted event on Monday. The choreographed meetings could score political points at home for Iran’s ruling clerics at a time when international sanctions are hurting the domestic economy.

Taghavi made clear that his promise to go after his contacts was also under pressure from Iranian authorities.

He said his contact took advantage of his trust and he plans to sue him.

“I am going to start suing them (leaders of Tondar). How far I can go, I don’t know. I try my best. I promised them (victims of Shiraz blast). I am going to keep my promise.”

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