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Watertown man who was arrested on charge he failed to register as an Iranian lobbyist sues wire service that claimed he was an Iranian spy

Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, a former BU professor who has been giving the Iranian side of Middle East issues in articles and interviews since 2007, today sued United Press International and one of its writers for claiming his arrest in January was for being a spy when, in fact, he was charged with a federal law that requires lobbyists getting paid by foreign governments to register with the Justice Department.

At issue is a Feb. 1 article distributed by UPI, originally headlined "Iranian spy arrested by FBI was wolf in sheep's clothing," written by a former member of the European Parliament who is now the coordinator a group that pushes for Iranian regime change. UPI deleted the "spy" reference from the headline, but kept the "wolf in sheep's clothing" phrase.

In his lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Boston, Afrasiabi says the headline and story has caused him damages that exceed $75,000 - the minimum amount to bring a suit in federal court - because, unlike in the US, where some people express surprise to learn UPI still exists, the news service has a "significant international audience" that reaches millions of people.

He notes he was filed under the federal foreign-agent-registration law - the one that initially got Paul Manafort in trouble - not the federal espionage law.

Dr. Afrasiabi has suffered immeasurable and significant damage to his reputation and great emotional distress as a result of the false statements made by the defendants and with this complaint seeks compensation for this defamation and libel by the defendants.

Afrasiabi is no stranger to the American court system. In 2017, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered him to stop filing appeals in cases he'd brought that hadn't even decided yet.

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PDF icon Complete complaint172.63 KB