The family of an 85-year-old ex-UN official held in Iran for six years said a failure to bring him home as part of a deal to resume the 2015 nuclear accord would have devastating and probably “deadly” consequences.
Baquer Namazi was arrested in February 22, 2016 after he flew into Iran to visit his son in a Tehran prison and both were convicted of spying charges after a sham trial and sentenced to jail for a decade.
He was freed from prison on medical grounds in 2018 but has been barred from leaving the country despite an Iranian court commuting his sentence to time served in 2020.
Mr Namazi, who suffers from stress-related epilepsy and depression, was forced to undergo emergency surgery last year to unblock an artery. His doctors had advised that he have the operation outside of the country but the regime refused the request.
Mr Namazi is one of four Americans known to be held by Iran. His son Siamak, 50, a businessman who lived in Dubai before being sentenced in 2015, is the longest-serving US prisoner in Iran.
Morad Tahbaz, 66, an environmentalist who also holds UK citizenship and businessman Emad Sharghi are also serving sentences at Evin jail.
Negotiators are coming to the end of talks in Vienna that could reignite the deal designed to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions. US officials have indicated that the release of western prisoners would be a condition of any agreement. About 20 dual-citizen prisoners from countries including the US, UK, France, Germany, Sweden and Austria are believed to be held in Iran.
Babak Namazi, Baquer’s son, said: “I am begging President Biden to do everything in his power to bring him and my brother home to us.
“The US must not end the negotiations or sign on to any deal without first securing the freedom of all the American hostages. Doing either would be devastating and likely deadly, especially for my 85-year-old father.”
Maltreatment in Iranian jail
During his time in prison, Mr Namazi was denied proper medical treatment and endured long periods of solitary confinement and psychological torture.
The family’s lawyer, Jared Genser, said Mr Namazi's case was particularly cruel even by the standards of the Iranian government.
“Iranian authorities manipulated a father’s love for his child to lure him into their grasp,” he said. “Despite being intimately aware of all Baquer’s health problems from the moment they arrested him, Iranian officials have knowingly and consistently acted against the advice of medical experts – including their own.
“Their lack of regard for human life is astonishing and a gross violation of their obligations under international law.”
The US State Department marked the sixth anniversary of Mr Namazi’s detention by calling for the release of the four Americans and resolving the case of former FBI agent, Bob Levinson.
Mr Levinson was kidnapped in 2007 on Iran’s Kish Island during an assignment to investigate sanctions-busting and smuggling. The US government has told his family that he died in captivity but the family is seeking the return of his remains.
“Iran’s wrongful detention of US citizens for use as political leverage is outrageous,” said spokesman Ned Price. “Our priority is bringing all our wrongfully detained citizens home safely and as soon as possible and resolving the cases of missing and abducted US citizens, including Bob Levinson.”