Iran jails Dubai businessman and father for 10 years for spying

The US demanded the release of Baquer and Siamak Namazi.

Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi pictured in San Francisco, California, US in 2006. Siamak and his father have been sentenced to 10 years in jail by Iran for espionage. Courtesy Ahmad Kiarostami/Handout via Reuters
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TEHRAN // An Iranian-American businessman and his 80-year-old father have been given 10 years in prison for espionage, Tehran’s prosecutor said on Tuesday, prompting the US to demand their release.

“Baquer and Siamak Namazi ... have been sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage and collaboration with the American government,” said prosecutor-general Abbas Jafari Dolat-Abadi, according to the Fars news agency.

Siamak Namazi, a well-connected business consultant who has supported reformist politicians in Iran, was arrested as he arrived in Tehran a year ago.

His father, Baquer, was detained in February when he came to Iran to seek his son’s release.

He is a former employee of the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) and served as a governor of the Iranian province of Khuzestan before the Islamic revolution of 1979.

The US demanded the release of the Namazis.

“We are deeply concerned about reports that US citizens Siamak Namazi and Baquer Namazi have each been sentenced to 10 years in prison,” state department spokesman Mark Toner said.

“We join recent calls by international organisations and UN human rights experts for the immediate release of all US citizens unjustly detained in Iran, including Siamak and Baquer Namazi, so that they can return to their families.”

The US also expressed concerns about reporters of the “declining health” of Baquer Namazi.

Unicef voiced its “deep sadness and personal concern” over the sentence, appealing for the release of the elder Namazi on humanitarian grounds.

Fars said four others -- Farhad Abd-Saleh, Kamran Ghaderi, Nezar Zaka and Alireza Omidvar -- had also been sentenced to 10 years in jail.

Zaka, a Lebanese-American arrested in November 2015, has been accused on state television of “numerous deep links to the US military intelligence community”.

The hardline Kayhan newspaper has described Omidvar as an "associate" of Namazi.

Conservative media have criticised Siamak Namazi’s links to the National Iranian American Council, a Washington-based NGO created by Iranian nationals aimed at boosting ties between the two countries.

At the time of his arrest last year, he was working for Crescent Petroleum, an energy firm based in the UAE, which is involved in an ongoing legal dispute with Iran over a failed gas deal, and is seeking billions of dollars in compensation.

Video footage of Namazi's arrest was published by Mizan, which is linked to the judiciary, earlier this week.

* Agence France-Presse