Iran’s government has accused a British-Iranian academic arrested in Tehran of being a “member of a British spy network”. 

Abbas Edalat, a professor at Imperial College London, was detained on April 15 and is believed to be in the custody of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. 

Iranian authorities acknowledged for the first time on Thursday that they were holding Mr Edalat. 

"A member of a British-backed spy network has been arrested recently, with alleged connections to the sedition and renegade currents,” an Iranian official told Fars, the semi-official state news agency. 

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Fars said that Mr Edalat was a member of the network and that Iran had made his arrest public only after “the media of the British government” had publicised his arrest. 

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said “We are urgently seeking information from the Iranian authorities following reports of the arrest of a British-Iranian dual national.”

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison in Iran

Iran regularly arrests dual nationals and accuses them of being spies, in what is widely seen as an effort to build up leverage in negotiations with Western countries. 

Human rights groups estimate that around 30 dual nationals have been arrested since Iran agreed to the 2015 nuclear deal with bloc of six world powers known as the P5+1 – the US, UK, Russia, China, France, and Germany.  

At least three other British citizens are believed being held including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the Thomson Reuters foundation charity worker who was sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian government. 

Iran has also harassed journalists and employees of the BBC’s Persian service, which many Iranian officials suspect is a propaganda arm of the British government intended to undermine the regime in Tehran.  

The BBC made an unprecedented appeal last month for the UN to protect its journalist in Iran from authorities, accusing Tehran of “the collective punishment of BBC Persian Service journalists and their families”. 

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