Imprisoned in Iran, He Has Message for Biden

American Siamak Namazi slams Biden, Trump, Obama for failing to secure his release since 2015
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2023 7:49 AM CST
American Jailed in Iran Goes on Hunger Strike
This undated photo shows Baquer Namazi, left, and his son, Siamak.   (Babak Namazi via AP)

Three Americans have been wrongfully detained in Iran for years, and one of them is now taking desperate measures to gain President Biden's attention. CNN reports that Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American oil executive who was taken into custody during a visit to Tehran in late 2015, has embarked on a weeklong hunger strike from his prison—one day for each of the seven years he's been detained. "In the past I implored you to reach for your moral compass and find the resolve to bring the US hostages in Iran home. To no avail," Namazi writes in a letter, released by his lawyer, to Biden regarding himself, Emad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz, who've also been imprisoned in Iran for years.

The 51-year-old then implores Biden to spare "just a single minute of your time" each day for the next week to think about the plight of the American prisoners. "Given I am in this cage all I have to offer you in return is my additional suffering," he writes. After his October 2015 detention, Namazi's father, Baquer, a retired UN official, was tricked in February 2016 into heading to Iran for a supposed visit with his son, but he, too, was then taken into custody. The two men were subsequently convicted on charges of cooperating with a hostile government—the United States, per NPR.

They were both sentenced to 10 years behind bars, but the elder Namazi was released last October due to his weakening health. The month before his father arrived in Iran, Siamak Namazi was left out of a prisoner swap that saw four other Americans released, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian. In his letter, Namazi blames the Obama administration for abandoning him, and the administrations of two subsequent presidents—Trump and Biden—for leaving him to languish in Tehran's Evin Prison. Namazi now claims the "unenviable title of the longest held Iranian-American hostage in history," despite what he says have been promises from the US government to get him home.

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In a release, Namazi's attorney, Jared Genser, says his client has been subjected to "prolonged solitary confinement, denial of access to medical care, and physical and psychological torture" during his prison stay. The US, meanwhile, says the charges against Namazi are baseless and that they haven't stopped working to have him released, per the BBC. A National Security Council spokesperson tells CNN that Biden's administration is "committed to securing the freedom of Siamak Namazi," as well as Shargi and Tahbaz, and that it will continue to work "tirelessly" to do so. (Read more Iran stories.)

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