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US citizen blocked in Iran needs surgery within days: Family

Published: Updated:

A US citizen blocked from leaving Iran risks death unless he has surgery within days, his family said Monday, appealing for him to be permitted to leave.

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 Tehran does not recognize dual nationality.

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

Breaking down with tears, 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 has been the ending my father deserves. My father is a selfless individual who spent his life in public service,” he told a virtual press conference.

In a letter to the UN special rapporteur on the right to health, lawyers for the family said Baquer’s case was “dire and extremely urgent.”

“In his current state, Baquer is at extreme risk of having a stroke, which could easily prove fatal,” it said.

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

Jared Genser, an international counsel to the Namazis, said that Baquer Namazi was “a free man” and should be allowed to leave Iran.

He said the family had made appeals directly to members of 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.

Baquer Namazi was taken into custody in February 2016 when he traveled to Tehran 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 unhygenic conditions” at the notorious Evin prison.

The status of US citizens is a major point of contention between Washington and Tehran.

The Biden administration has urged the release of all detained Americans as it looks to return to a 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran.

Read more: Iran accuses Sweden of ‘torturing’ Iranian detainee suspected of war crimes