US citizen blocked in Iran needs surgery within days: family

Washington (AFP) –


A US citizen blocked from leaving Iran risks death unless he has surgery within days, his lawyers 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.

Namazi, whose son remains imprisoned, has a blockage in 95-97 percent of one of the main arteries that supply blood to his brain, his lawyers said.

"The situation for Baquer, almost 85 years old, is now dire and extremely urgent," they wrote to the UN special rapporteur on the right to health.

Doctors' results released on September 28 concluded that Namazi needs to undergo surgery within seven to 10 days maximum to remove the plaque, the letter said.

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

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.

"If the government refuses, then they are making an intentional decision that it knows will put his life at grave risk of harm," Genser said.

Baquer Namazi was taken into custody in February 2016 when he traveled to Tehran in hopes of assisting his 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.

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