TEHRAN, Oct. 18 (UPI) — An Iranian-American father and son were sentenced to 10-year prison terms in Iran on suspicion they were spying for the United States government.
Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer Namazi, who are dual citizens of Iran and the United States, were each sentenced to 10 years in prison for collaborating with a foreign government, with the prosecutor in the case saying more information would be provided about their crimes at a later time.
Since signing an agreement with the United States to curtail its nuclear program, Iranian agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have arrested several people with dual nationality. While some of those arrested are known, many have not been publicized and little is known about why they have been detained.
Family members and friends have been shocked by the convictions, considering Siamak is a business consultant working to strengthen links between the United States and Iran, and Baquer had gone to Iran earlier this year to visit his son who was already in jail there.
“It should now be clear that this is nothing more than hostage taking, carried out by the most extreme elements in Iran’s government,” Reza Marashi, researcher director of the National Iranian American Council, told The New York Times. “As those elements release new details of Siamak and Baquer’s imprisonment to Iranian media, they are trying to leverage the United States into making a trade of some sort.”
Siamak Namazi has worked with multinational companies advising them on how to do business in Iran and was arrested while on business there in 2015. His father, hoping to negotiate for the release of his son from jail, was arrested under suspicion he is an American spy and was instructing his son on how to do the same.
Some analysts have suggested jailing people with dual citizenship to gain leverage when negotiating with other countries. In case of the nuclear deal with the United States, each country returned prisoners of the other — four Americans and one Iranian-American returned to the United States, and seven Iranians were sent back to Iran — in addition to a $400 million cash payment.
The U.S. State Department called for the immediate release of the Namazis and other Americans unjustly held in Iran.
“We are deeply concerned about reports that U.S. citizens Siamak Namazi and Baquer Namazi have each been sentenced to 10 years in prison,” Mark Toner, deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said in a press release. “Siamak Namazi has been unjustly detained in Iran for over a year. His father, Baquer Namazi, whom the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund has called a respected former employee, was also reportedly unjustly detained at the end of February 2016. We remain especially concerned by reports of his declining health and well-being.”