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Relatives Of Dual-National Prisoners In Iran Form Coordinating Group

Former Prisoner In Iran Speaks To Radio Farda
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Nizar Zakka who spent four years in an Iranian prison on fabricated charges of espionage spoke with Radio Farda's Hannah Kaviani in New York. September 24, 2019

The relatives of the dual nationals imprisoned in Iran have launched an alliance seeking the release of their beloved family members.

In a gathering on the fringes of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, some of the relatives of imprisoned dual nationals in Iran declared that the new alliance would try to urge the international body and all countries across the globe to help release their family members from the Islamic Republic prisons.

Speaking exclusively to Radio Farda's Hannah Kaviani in New York, a Lebanese permanent resident of the United States, Nizar Zakka, noted that the newly formed alliance would help to create a "unified voice," calling for the release of all dual nationals held in Iran.

Nizar Zakka was arrested and charged with espionage in 2015 while attending a conference in Tehran on the invitation of President Hassan Rouhani's deputy for women's and family affairs.

In an interview with the Associated Press last year, Rouhani’s deputy said her government had "failed" to help Zakka and acknowledged Iran's civilian leaders had limited power to influence the omnipotent security forces and the hardliner judiciary.

Describing the imprisoned dual nationals in Iran as "hostages", Zakka told Radio Farda that the Islamic Republic treats dual nationals as bargaining chips in its secret deals with foreign governments.

The Islamic Republic performs like a supermarket, Zakka argues, as soon as a product is gone, it would be replaced by new products.

"They set free Washington Post's bureau chief in Tehran, Iranian-American Jason Rezaian, and immediately put me in his place," Zakka maintained.

Insisting that the Islamic Republic threatens the relatives of the imprisoned dual nationals to prevent them from publicizing the cases of their loved ones, Zakka asserts that the newly formed alliance will pave the way for the victims' families to unify and speak with "one voice."

In the Tuesday gathering in New York, relatives of other prisoners, the husband of an Iranian-British mother, Richard Ratcliffe, a son of Robert Levinson, and Babak Namazi were also present.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, is a British-Iranian dual citizen who has been detained in Tehran's infamous prison, Evin, since April 3, 2016. In early September 2016, she was sentenced to five years' imprisonment allegedly for "...plotting to topple the Islamic Republic establishment."

Meanwhile, Babak Namazi's father and brother, Baquer and Siamak, are also held in Evin prison.

The Namazis were convicted of collaborating with a hostile power (the United States) in a secret trial in Tehan in October 2016, and their convictions and ten-year sentences were upheld on November 2017 on appeal. The precise nature of the accusations has never been made clear.

Robert Alan "Bob" Levinson, 71, is an American former Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who disappeared mysteriously on March 9, 2007, in Kish Island, Iran.

He may be held captive by the government of Iran, although Tehran has repeatedly denied the allegation. On November 26, 2013, Levinson, if he is still alive, became the longest-held hostage in American history, surpassing Terry A. Anderson. According to his family, he has type 1 diabetes, gout, and hypertension. His passport has never shown up in any other country.

Levinson's son, Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, and Babak Namazi requested a meeting with the Islamic Republic's President Hassan Rouhani in New York but were rejected.

In a meeting with Rouhani in New York, British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, also called upon him to pave the way for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other dual nationals held in Iran.