US presses Iran on American said to need urgent surgery

Baquer Namazi was taken into custody in February 2016 when he traveled to Teheran in hopes of assisting his son Siamak, who had been detained. PHOTO: @FREETHENAMAZIS/FACEBOOK

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday (Oct 4) urged Iran to allow a US citizen blocked from exiting to seek medical care as his family said his life depended upon urgent surgery overseas.

An Iranian court early last year commuted the sentence of Baquer Namazi, a former Unicef official, but his lawyers said authorities have refused to issue him an Iranian passport, which he needs to leave as Teheran does not recognize dual nationality.

Namazi, 84, whose son remains imprisoned, has a blockage in 95-97 per cent of one of the main arteries that supply blood to his brain and needs surgery in seven to 10 days, his family said.

"Baquer Namazi needs immediate surgery, and the Iranian government should allow him to seek the medical attention necessary to save his life," Blinken wrote on Twitter. "It's been almost six years since he's seen his children. At a time like this, he should be surrounded by his entire family."

Namazi can undergo the surgery in Iran, but his lawyers said the environment was too stressful after his detention and that there was a high risk of Covid-19.

Addressing a virtual press conference earlier in the day, another son, Babak Namazi, said the family was "devastated" and that the situation was "a type of torture I would not wish upon my worst enemy."

"This is not and has never been the ending my father deserves. My father is a selfless individual who spent his life in public service," he said, fighting back tears.

In a letter seeking intervention by the UN special rapporteur on the right to health, lawyers for the family said Namazi "is at extreme risk of having a stroke, which could easily prove fatal." Jared Genser, an international counsel to the Namazis, said the family had appealed directly to Blinken and others in President Joe Biden's administration.

"The time for action is now. I call on President Biden to engage personally to make this happen," Genser said.

The Biden administration has spoken indirectly with Teheran as it looks to return the United States to a 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran rejected by former president Donald Trump.

Baquer Namazi was taken into custody in February 2016 when he traveled to Teheran in hopes of assisting son Siamak Namazi, a businessman who had been detained. Siamak Namazi is still serving a 10-year sentence for alleged collaboration with a hostile government.

His family strenuously denies the charges and says he was harshly interrogated over past fellowships with US institutions.

The letter said that Siamak Namazi received the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine in August but remains in "overcrowded and unhygienic conditions" at the notorious Evin prison.

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