An exiled Iranian activist who was arrested while holidaying in Italy because Tehran had issued an international arrest warrant for him was released on Thursday, his organization said.

Mehdi Khosravi, 37, was apprehended in a hotel near Lake Como in northern Italy late Saturday after his name showed up on a wanted list supplied by Iran to international police agency Interpol.

The Paris-based Iran National Council for Free Election posted a picture of the smiling dissident, with a message confirming that he had been freed.

According to the ANSA news agency, the man was questioned by a Milan court and let go after his lawyer showed that he had refugee status in Britain and had been persecuted in his home country.

Riccardo Noury, a spokesman for Amnesty International in Italy, told dpa that the organization helped Khosravi's legal team, and was ready to protest with Justice Minister Andrea Orlando, had the court refused to release the man.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was urged to intervene by the son of the late shah who was deposed during Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"Mr Khosravi's return to Iran will lead to his incarceration, torture and possible conviction and execution as a political and human rights opponent of the regime," Reza Pahlavi wrote in an appeal on Monday.

Khosravi fled Iran in the wake of protests about the 2009 presidential elections, which were marred by allegations of fraud for the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran is seeking his extradition on corruption charges.

The Italian government never commented publicly on the affair, which evoked comparisons with an incident from 2013, when Rome police arrested and deported the wife and child of a Kazakh dissident.

Rome authorities later admitted their mistake and pressured Kazakhstan to lift a travel ban on Alma Shalabayeva and her daughter, who were eventually allowed to return to Europe.

Earlier this year, Renzi was accused of kowtowing to Iran's regime because nude ancient Roman statues were covered up during a state visit to Rome by Iranian President Hassan Rowhani.

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