Ex-Unicef official has surgery in Iran after plea to leave fails

The family of ex-prisoner Baquer Namazi wanted him to travel abroad for treatment but their request failed

Siamak Namazi (jailed in Iran) and father Baquer. courtesy: Paul Peachey

An 84-year-old American-Iranian has had successful life-saving surgery in Iran after officials refused to let him leave the country.

Baquer Namazi, a former Unicef official, has been unable to leave the country since he was released from prison in 2018, held on what the US says were trumped up charges of spying.

His family had called on both governments to ensure he could leave the country to clear a blockage in an artery to the brain because they feared he would not survive surgery in an Iranian hospital.

But the appeal to the US, the UN and Iran was unsuccessful and Namazi had an operation on Tuesday that lasted several hours. The family’s lawyer said it appeared to have been a success and he was awake but groggy. Namazi was expected to be in intensive care for several days.

His lawyer, Jared Genser, said concerns remained about the quality of aftercare in Iran, the significant risk from Covid-19 and the need for a stress-free environment for recovery. He said “all of which threaten Baquer’s survival and long-term well-being”.

The family had previously said their medical insurers were unwilling to pay for the treatment in Iran owing to US sanctions and they were unable to pay for the treatment.

It was not immediately clear who paid for the treatment. Mr Genser did not respond to a request for comment.

Namazi was first detained in 2016 when he travelled to Tehran to visit his son Siamak Namazi, a UAE-based businessman, who was arrested in Iran months earlier.

The pair were both sentenced to ten years in prison but Baquer was released in 2018 on medical grounds. His sentence was subsequently commuted to time served but he was not allowed to leave the country.

Siamak remains in Tehran’s Evin prison.

The father and son are among at least 15 dual-nationals from the US, Canada, Sweden, Briton, France, Austria and Germany who are held in prison or barred from leaving the country.

Updated: October 28th 2021, 8:27 AM