UN officials demand release of US dual citizen Siamak Namazi as he marks five years in Iran’s Evin jail

Businessman is longest-serving US-Iranian prisoner held in Iran

Siamak Namazi (jailed in Iran) and father Baquer. courtesy: Paul Peachey
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

More than 160 current and former United Nations officials have called on Iran to end the “horror and pain” for the family of a US-Iranian dual national who on Tuesday marked his fifth year in Tehran’s Evin jail.

The Dubai family of Siamak Namazi believed he would be released within days of his arrest on October 13, 2015, but spent the “grim” anniversary calling on governments to help free the 49-year-old and other dual nationals held by Tehran.

Mr Namazi, an oil company executive, was convicted of collaborating with a hostile government, the US, in 2016 and has since become the longest-serving US-Iranian prisoner held in Iran. Tehran has resisted repeated demands by successive US administrations for his release.

His father, Baquer, 84, a former official of the UN’s children’s fund Unicef, was also jailed in 2016 after flying to Iran to visit his son in prison. Baquer was later freed because of ill health but was refused permission to leave the country to seek treatment for life-threatening conditions.

The family said the arrests were a ploy by Iran to gain political leverage over the US and they were no nearer to securing Mr Namazi’s release than the day he was arrested.

“After five years, you would think that one day you will wake up and think I’m used to this,” said Siamak Namazi’s brother, Babak. “It doesn’t work like that. When people ask how you are, I will say: ‘Worse than yesterday and better than tomorrow’.”

The UN officials sent the open letter on Tuesday demanding Mr Namazi’s release from his 10-year jail term and for his father to be allowed to leave Iran.

“Siamak’s imprisonment is all the more difficult to understand, given that for years he worked on removing obstacles to bringing medicine and medical equipment to those in need in Iran,” according to the signatories who include two former executive directors of Unicef.

“The horrors and pain that the Namazi family are enduring are beyond our imagination.

“We call upon the Iranian authorities to end the continued suffering of father, son and the entire family and to allow them to leave Iran and be with their loved ones. It is time for Iran to let Baquer and Siamak go.”

Siamak Namazi was subjected to periods of torture and solitary confinement during his time at Evin, his family said. The authorities repeatedly snubbed his requests for temporary release because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Other dual nationals, including French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah and British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, are among the 120,000 inmates given temporary home leave. The two women are staying with relatives and must wear electronic ankle tags to ensure they do not flee the country.

The UN reported that serving prisoners have been brought back from leave in large numbers despite Iran hitting a record high number of daily infections last week.

Babak Namazi said that his brother was being held in an “infected petri dish” and that his life remained in grave danger.

He told The National that when he learned of his brother's detention five years ago he assumed it was a misunderstanding that would be quickly cleared up.

Siamak Namazi was jailed for 10 years in 2016 in Iran alongside his father, Baquer. Reuters

“I was able to talk to one of the magistrates at Evin prison, who assured me that there was really nothing to worry about, that this was just expected questioning and it would be one week or maybe two,” he said.

“But the days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months and the months turned into years and, horrifically, we are at this five-year anniversary. That’s beyond my comprehension – I never thought that this would be dragged out.”

He said that governments around the world had a responsibility to act against Iran. “This is not just a US problem,” he said. “I’m disappointed at the international community as the deafening silence has emboldened Iran to continue this process.

“It’s long overdue that the world speaks with one voice, takes very clear action and states that we cannot tolerate this if Iran expects to integrate and be a member of the international community.”