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Tehran criticises US for 'preventing entry' of Iranian singer

Alireza Ghorbani was travelling to California from Toronto for a concert to celebrate Nowruz when US immigration officers removed him from the flight without explanation
Alireza Ghorbani says the entry ban is related to his compulsory military service in Iran (Social media)

Tehran on Saturday criticised Washington for "preventing the entry" of Iranian singer Alireza Ghorbani to the US, after he was reportedly interrogated and had his visa cancelled.

Iran's state news agency IRNA reported that Ghorbani was travelling to California to perform at a sold-out concert in the city of Irvine to celebrate the Persian new year, or Nowruz, according to AFP.

But on 25 March, US border patrol officers at Toronto Airport in Canada reportedly interrogated him and cancelled his US visa, preventing him from travelling.

'They interrogated him for nearly four hours and eventually told him his visa was going to be cancelled'

- Alireza Ardekani, Farhang Foundation

“He got on his flight, sat on his seat and some [US immigration] officers got on the flight and took him out,” said Alireza Ardekani, executive director for the Los Angeles-area nonprofit Farhang Foundation, which collaborated with the Pacific Symphony to host the Nowruz event.

“They interrogated him for nearly four hours and eventually told him his visa was going to be cancelled, and he could no longer travel to the US,” Ardekani said, according to the Tasnim news agency.

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The US government "by imposing new sanctions and preventing the entry of an Iranian singer, once again showed that… it is hostile to the people of Iran", government spokesperson Ali Bahadori said on Saturday.

The US government "has a clear record of not keeping promises and breaching international and human rights standards", he added.

US terror list

The 49-year-old traditional vocalist had attributed the entry ban to his compulsory military service in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the ideological arm of Iran's military.

In 2019, the IRGC was added to a US government list of terrorist organisations.

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"What comes to my legal team's mind is that a law has been passed that includes all individuals from 2019 onwards," Ghorbani said on Friday, in a video posted on Instagram.

The IRGC claimed responsibility for a missile attack on Erbil in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region on 13 March, saying that it targeted an Israeli "strategic centre", and warning of more attacks.

Relations between the US and Iran have been severed since April 1980, a year after the fall of the pro-western Shah.

The two countries are currently engaged in indirect negotiations in Vienna to restore a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, from which Washington, under the presidency of Donald Trump, unilaterally withdrew in 2018.

Among the key sticking points in the negotiations is Tehran's demand to delist the IRGC from the US terror list, with the US recently affirming that sanctions on the IRGC would remain.

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