WASHINGTON (AP) — An ailing Iranian-American dual national held in Tehran was returned to prison Tuesday after Iran’s government refused to agree to an extended medical release, his family and attorney said.
Iran’s judiciary had allowed 81-year-old Baquer Namazi to leave Evin prison for a few days following recent surgery to install a pacemaker, but his family had hoped it would be extended. Lawyer Jared Genser said Namazi was assessed by Iran’s medical examiner, who recommended he be allowed a three-month respite, and left open the possibility it could be extended even longer.
Amid high hopes that Iran would allow the three-month leave, Namazi’s family received a call Tuesday from prison officials informing them that he must return immediately. He was dropped off at the prison shortly thereafter, Genser said, calling it “tantamount to a death sentence that will be imposed quickly.”
“I was looking forward to my father being home,” said Babak Namazi, the prisoner’s son.
The younger Namazi said that his brother, Siamak Namazi, had been physically abused while in prison, including through electric shocks delivered by wires. He grew emotional as he read to reporters a written statement from his father stating that “much sacrifice is needed and I am willing to be one of the victims, with the hope that the pain will not be in vain.”
A former UNICEF representative who served as governor of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, Namazi is one of a number of dual nationals detained since Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. He and his businessman son, Siamak, were both sentenced to 10 years after closed-door trials. Analysts believe Iran is holding them as bargaining chips for future negotiations with the West.
There was no immediate reaction from the government in Tehran. However, Iran’s judiciary had previously sought to downplay any expectation Namazi would be put on an indefinite release despite the brief reprieve after his surgery.
In Washington, the State Department said it was “deeply disappointed” that Iran had returned Namazi to prison, arguing that he is in “urgent need of sustained medical care.” The State Department said it was renewing its call for his “unconditional release,” along with the release of his son and other Americans detained in Iran.
Namazi’s return to prison came as Babak Namazi and his father’s attorney were in Washington to meet with senior officials at the White House and the State Department about future efforts to secure his permanent release. Genser said they also planned to meet in New York with US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.