US businessman freed from Teheran prison claims innocence

TEHERAN, Iran — An Iranian-American businessman released after spending more than two years in a Teheran prison on suspicion of ties to a violent opposition group said Sunday he was innocent and had been jailed for giving a man in Iran $200 that an acquaintance in the United States had given him.
Reza Taghavi, 71, spoke a day after Iranian authorities released him from Evin prison, where he spent the past 29 months for handing over the cash to a man linked to a terrorist organization. The group, known as Tondar, was implicated in a 2008 bombing of a mosque in the city of Shiraz that killed 14 people.
Taghavi, who has not been charged, denies knowingly supporting the organization. He told AP Television News that he "brought the money here without knowing anything about it."
"After a month, I was arrested for that because those people were the terrorists who bombed the mosque," he added.
Taghavi, who regularly visits Iran to conduct business and see family, had received the money in California with instructions to pass the cash to an Iranian, according to his lawyer, Pierre Prosper.
On Saturday, Prosper told The Associated Press that Taghavi "admitted to nothing and he continues to maintain his innocence."
Iranian officials are "comfortable that he was in fact used by this organization, and comfortable that he does not pose a threat to them and that he can leave and go back to the United States," Prosper said.
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