The United States has arrested and charged an Iranian semiconductor scientist with violating U.S. export laws by buying high-tech U.S. lab equipment, a development likely to further worsen Iranian-U.S. tensions.
Prison records show the U.S. is holding Seyed Mojtaba Atarodi, 54, a microchip expert and assistant professor at Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology, in a federal facility in Dublin, Calif., outside San Francisco. The Iranian interest section in the Pakistani embassy in Washington said it was aware of the arrest.
Atarodi arrived at a bond hearing in federal district court in San Francisco Thursday, Jan 26. Before the hearing began, the judge closed the courtroom except to attorneys and members of the family. According to friends, Atarodi was detained Dec. 7 after stepping off a plane in Los Angeles.
U.S. law enforcement officials have declined to discuss any aspect of Atarodi’s case, and records indicate the charges have been sealed.
The arrest comes as the U.S., Israel and their allies are using diplomacy, sanctions and intelligence efforts to try to cripple what they suspect is Iran’s drive to lay the foundations of a nuclear weapons program.
Atarodi is listed as the author or coauthor of dozens of scientific papers dealing with microchip technology, though none appears to be explicitly related to military work.