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U.S. Senate Calls On Iran To Release Imprisoned Americans

Iran has handed down10-year jail terms against Xiyue Wang (right), a U.S. citizen, Baquer and Siamak Namazi (middle) two Iranian-Americans and Nizar Zakka (left) a U.S. resident from Lebanon.

United States Senate called on Iranian government to release detained U.S. citizens and provide assistance for locating a missing retired FBI agent.

In a resolution passed unanimously on October 31st, the U.S. senators said that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had taken several United States citizens, including Siamak Namazi, Baquer Namazi, and Xiyue Wang, as well as United States legal permanent resident alien Nizar Zakka as “hostage” and demanded their release from Tehran.

Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father, Baquer Namazi, who is in poor health, were sentenced to 10 years in prison last year for "collaborating with a hostile government", namely the United States.

Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese national and a U.S. green card holder who was invited by the Iranian government to attend a conference along with Xiyue Wang, a U.S. citizen who was conducting research for his dissertation in Iran were accused of espionage for United States and also convicted to 10 years in prison.

Senate resolution 245 also mentioned Robert Levinson, the former FBI agent who disappeared in Kish Island in March 2007, saying that according to officials of previous U.S. administration, the Iranian government had committed itself to try and gather information about Mr. Levinson's possible whereabouts, but this has not happened yet.

The senate “urges the Government of Iran to take meaningful steps toward fulfilling its repeated promises to assist in locating and returning Robert Levinson, including immediately providing all available information from all entities of the Government of Iran regarding the disappearance of Robert Levinson to the United States Government.”

Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent and DEA agent, who disappeared in Iran since 2007, undated
Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent and DEA agent, who disappeared in Iran since 2007, undated

On Jule 21, U.S. President Donald Trump warned that Iran faces "new and serious consequences" unless all "unjustly detained" American citizens are released and returned, the White House said on July 21.

Mr. Levinson’s family has accused the Iranian government of kidnapping the former FBI agent and has already filed a lawsuit against Tehran over that.

In their resolution, U.S. senators accused the Iranian government of seeking to receive economic or political concessions in exchange for the release of prisoners and said that this practice was banned by the International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 17, 1979, and acceded to by the Government of Iran on November 20, 2006, and other international legal norms.

The resolution also urged the U.S. President to make the release of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents detained in Iran its highest priority and to take “whatever steps are in the national interest” to reach this goal. It also requested that the United States and its allies whose nationals and residents have been detained in Iran establish a multinational task force to secure the release of the detainees.

“We have a moral imperative to speak for the silenced and shackled, to hold those responsible in Iran to account for detaining and mistreating our people, and to fight for the release and return of those held hostage by the Islamic Republic of Iran”, Senator Ted Cruz said in a statement on Wednesday following the passage of the resolution by the U.S. Senate and added that he will continue to work with his colleagues to ensure that the United States brings the detainees back to America safely.

“There are few more egregious violations of human rights and human dignity than to wrongfully imprison innocent people under harsh conditions for purposes of extortion, which the Government of Iran engages in as a matter of state policy and practice,” Senator Patrick Leahy said in a statement regarding the resolution. Leahy pointed to the case of the ill Baquer Namazi and urged President Trump’s administration to use diplomatic tools to obtain the freedom of the imprisoned U.S. citizens.