US citizen has surgery in Iran after appeal to leave denied

Washington (AFP) – A US senior citizen blocked from leaving Iran underwent a successful surgery in Tehran on Tuesday after authorities refused appeals to let him leave for treatment, his lawyer said.

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Baquer Namazi, a former UNICEF official, was freed from prison early last year but his lawyers say that authorities would not issue the naturalized US citizen an Iranian passport, which he needs to leave as Tehran does not recognize dual nationality.

Three weeks after Namazi's family made an emotional plea to let him leave, the 84-year-old underwent an operation to clear a life-threatening blockage in one of the main arteries to his brain.

"The surgery appears to have been a success and Baquer is awake, although he remains groggy," said his international counsel, Jared Genser.

But he said that the family remained concerned about the quality of post-operation care and the threat of Covid-19 in Iran.

"I strongly condemn Iran's choice to ignore its international obligations to enable Baquer to travel abroad to receive care," he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken had appealed to Iran to show compassion, saying that Namazi needed to be around his children.

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 about his past fellowships with US institutions.

The United States and Iran have had no diplomatic relations since the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with tensions high over the clerical state's contested nuclear work.