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U.S. Holding Iran To Account For Ailing Prisoner’s Health

A combo photo of Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi (right) and his father, Baquer Namazi
A combo photo of Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi (right) and his father, Baquer Namazi

The United States says it is holding Iran responsible for the health of an 81-year-old Iranian-American man who was sent back to prison this week following a short medical leave.

Baquer Namazi "remains in urgent need of sustained medical care, and the United States government holds Iran fully accountable for his well-being," the White House said on February 7.

Lawyer Jared Genser said on February 6 that Iranian authorities had returned his client to Tehran’s Evin prison after briefly releasing him so he could undergo medical examination.

Genser said the decision, which he said was made despite the advice of the Iranian government's own medical examiner, is "tantamount to a death sentence."

Namazi had undergone surgery while imprisoned to have a pacemaker installed, and Genser had wanted his client's leave to be made permanent given his poor health.

“He has been hospitalized four times in the last year and continues to suffer from life-threatening heart problems," the White House statement read.

The U.S. State Department said on February 6 that it was “incredibly disappointed” with Namazi’s return to prison. "We have been alarmed for some time at his declining health,” spokesman Heather Nauert said.

Baquer Namazi, a retired UNICEF official, and his son Siamak were sentenced in October to 10 years in prison for spying and cooperating with the U.S. government. The charges were denied by the family and dismissed by U.S. authorities.

The Namazis are among several dual nationals held by Iran. Analysts believe Iran is holding them as bargaining chips for future negotiations with the West.

The White House on February 7 reiterated its call for “the immediate and unconditional release of all unjustly detained and missing United States citizens in Iran, including Baquer Namazi, his son Siamak Namazi, Xiyue Wang, and Robert Levinson."

Wang, a Princeton University student, has been given a 10-year sentence for espionage. He was arrested in August 2016 while conducting research for his dissertation on Iran's Qajar dynasty.

Levinson, a former FBI agent, disappeared in March 2007 after apparently traveling to an Iranian coastal island.

With reporting by AP and Reuters