Nearly three decades had passed since Yaghoub Khezri fled his native Iran in 1978, on the eve of the Islamic revolution, to begin a new life in Forest Hills, Queens.
It was in New York that he watched his children have children of their own, as his past receded further and further.
But the old memories kindled the faint hope that he could return one day.
After Four Years in Iranian Custody, a Queens Man Is Almost Home
So when, in 2004, some old business partners from Tehran reached out to Mr. Khezri and told him it was safe to come back and claim property that had been seized by the government, the lure — both financial and emotional — proved more powerful than any fears about what might happen if he returned.
And at the age of 81, it was most likely his last chance to see Iran.
Almost as soon as he landed in Tehran, however, Mr. Khezri found himself at the center of a nightmare. He was arrested, and at first faced charges that carried a possible death sentence. Eventually, he was convicted of “womanizing” and “immoral acts” and sentenced to three and half years in prison and 99 lashes.
On the day he was convicted, April 7, 2005, Mr. Khezri wrote a short statement on the sentencing document. “I will be in this hellhole for 42 months,” he wrote. “God help me. Death would be better than this.”
Ms. Errickson, who is working on a documentary about the case, said Mr. Khezri may have been set up so that others could somehow make a profit if he were out of the picture.
Bijan Khezri said the property his father was going back to claim was probably worth a little more than $1 million.
But even before he could work out any deal concerning his property, Mr. Khezri was placed under house arrest and asked if he was a spy for Israel.