Family tells AP: Iran abducted California man while in Dubai

This undated photograph provided by the family of Jamshid Sharmahd shows the 65-year-old man from Glendora, California. Iran abducted Sharmahd, a leader of a California-based Iranian militant exile group, while he was in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and apparently smuggled him into Oman before bringing him to the Islamic Republic, his family told The Associated Press on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Iran has only said they detained Sharmahd in what it describes as a "complex operation." (Sharmahd family via AP)
This undated photograph provided by the family of Jamshid Sharmahd shows the 65-year-old man from Glendora, California. Iran abducted Sharmahd, a leader of a California-based Iranian militant exile group, while he was in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and apparently smuggled him into Oman before bringing him to the Islamic Republic, his family told The Associated Press on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Iran has only said they detained Sharmahd in what it describes as a "complex operation." (Sharmahd family via AP)

DUBAI – A California-based member of an Iranian militant opposition group in exile was abducted by Iran while staying in Dubai, his family said Tuesday.

The suspected cross-border abduction of Jamshid Sharmahd appears corroborated by mobile phone location data, shared by his family with The Associated Press, that suggests he was taken to neighboring Oman before heading to Iran.

Iran hasn't said how it detained Sharmahd, though the announcement came against the backdrop of covert actions conducted by Iran amid heightened tensions with the U.S. over Tehran’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

Iran accuses Sharmahd, 65, of Glendora, California of planning a 2008 attack on a mosque that killed 14 people and wounded over 200 others, as well as plotting other assaults through the little-known Kingdom Assembly of Iran and its Tondar militant wing. It aired an interview of him on state television — footage that resembled many other suspected coerced confessions broadcast by the Iranian government in the last decade.

His family, however, insists Sharmahd only served as a spokesman for the group and had nothing to do with any attacks in Iran. Sharmahd, an Iranian-German national who supports restoring Iran's monarchy that was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, already had been targeted in an apparent Iranian assassination plot on U.S. soil in 2009.

“We’re seeking support from any democratic country, any free country," his son Shayan Sharmahd told the AP. "It is a violation of human rights. You can’t just pick someone up in a third country and drag them into your country.”

Iran's Intelligence Ministry has not elaborated on how it detained the elder Sharmahd, other than to deny he was arrested in Tajikistan. The ministry and Iran's mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Sharmahd had been in Dubai, trying to travel to India for a business deal involving his software company, his son said. He was hoping to get a connecting flight despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic disrupting global travel.