The Trump administration is “deeply concerned” that a U.S. citizen was returned to prison in Iran after a brief medical leave and wants him released immediately, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Wednesday, Politico reports.
Sanders said the White House holds Iran “fully accountable” for Namazi’s well-being and called for his immediate and unconditional release of all U.S. citizens “unjustly detained” and missing in Iran, including Baquer Namazi, his son Siamak Namazi, Xiyue Wang, and Robert Levinson.
“We understand the decision to return Namazi to prison was made against the strong advice of his doctors and the Iranian regime’s own medical examiner. Namazi, who is 81 years old, is serving a 10-year sentence on false charges. He has been hospitalized four times in the last year and continues to suffer from life-threatening heart problems. He remains in urgent need of sustained medical care, and the United States Government holds Iran fully accountable for his well-being,” Sanders said in her statement.
Baquer Namazi, an 81-year-old Iranian-American man who was sentenced to 10 years in prison on spying charges by foreign authorities, was sent back to Evin Prison after undergoing a medical examination, his family announced on Tuesday.
The White House, which in July called for the release of Namazi and other Iranian prisoners, called the charges against him “false” and urged authorities to release him given the status of his medical condition.
“The Trump administration again calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all unjustly detained and missing United States citizens in Iran, including Baquer Namazi, his son Siamak Namazi, Xiyue Wang and Robert Levinson,” Sanders said in a statement.
She added that Namazi “remains in urgent need of sustained medical care, and the United States government holds Iran fully accountable for his well-being.” Namazi has been accused of cooperating with the U.S. in spying on Iran, and he and his son were taken into custody during the Obama administration.
Lawyer Jared Genser said on February 6 that Iranian authorities had returned his client to Tehran’s Evin prison after briefly releasing him so he could undergo a medical examination. Genser said the decision, which he said was made despite the advice of the Iranian government’s own medical examiner, is “tantamount to a death sentence.”
Namazi had undergone surgery while imprisoned to have a pacemaker installed, and Genser had wanted his client’s leave to be made permanent given his poor health.
“He has been hospitalized four times in the last year and continues to suffer from life-threatening heart problems,” the White House statement read.
Baquer Namazi was imprisoned in Iran in February 2016 while trying to press for the release of his son, Siamak Namazi, who was jailed during a visit to Iran in the fall of 2015. Baquer is a retired UNICEF official and Siamak is an Iranian-American businessman.
Both were sentenced to 10 years in prison for “cooperating with the hostile American government.” Siamak Namazi has spent months of his detention in solitary confinement and has been beaten and tased during intense interrogations, according to his attorney.
While Genser declined to discuss details of any negotiations the Trump administration has had regarding the release of Americans held in Iran, he stressed that Iran, not the United States, has demonstrated an unwillingness to engage on the issue.
“The responsibility falls on the backs of Iran and its unwillingness to have any discussions to get this done. We have been grateful for the support of the Trump administration and obviously we continue to need it,” he said.
The Namazis are among several dual nationals held by Iran. Analysts believe Iran is holding them as bargaining chips for future negotiations with the West.
The White House on February 7 reiterated its call for “the immediate and unconditional release of all unjustly detained and missing United States citizens in Iran, including Baquer Namazi, his son Siamak Namazi, Xiyue Wang, and Robert Levinson.” Wang, a Princeton University student, has been given a 10-year sentence for espionage. He was arrested in August 2016 while conducting research for his dissertation on Iran’s Qajar dynasty.
Levinson, a former FBI agent, disappeared in March 2007 after apparently traveling to an Iranian coastal island.