Tehran court sentences Iranian-Americans for ‘spying’

Detentions of Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer, a former UNICEF worker, come amid a crackdown on dual citizens.

Family handout picture of Iranian-American consultant Siamak Namazi with his father Baquer Namazi
Iranian-US citizens Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer have been sentenced to 10 years in jail for 'spying' [Reuters]

An Iranian court has sentenced an Iranian-American businessman and his elderly father to 10 years in prison on charges of cooperating with the US, Iranian media reported on Tuesday.

Iran’s Fars News Agency reported that the pair were among a group of six who were “sentenced for spying in Iran”.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in October 2015 detained Siamak Namazi, a businessman in his mid-40s with dual US-Iranian citizenship, while he was visiting family in Tehran.

The IRGC in February arrested his 80-year-old father, Baquer Namazi, a former Iranian provincial governor and former UNICEF official who also has dual citizenship.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, quoted by Fars, confirmed their sentences.

The US State Department’s deputy spokesman, Mark Toner, said the Namazis had been “unjustly detained” in Iran, and called for their immediate release.

The detentions come amid an intensifying crackdown against Iranians with ties to the West, directed by powerful hardliners in judiciary and security forces in the aftermath of Iran’s historic nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers last year.

Washington and Tehran have not had formal diplomatic relations since the 1979 Islamic revolution which toppled the US-backed Shah.

READ MORE: Out of sight – Imprisoned in Iran

Babak Namazi, Siamak’s brother and Baquer’s son, said the sentences were unjust.

“My father has been handed practically a death sentence,” he said in a statement.

Baquer has a serious heart condition and requires special medication, his wife wrote on Facebook in February.

In a statement released on Tuesday, UNICEF highlighted Baquer’s work in Somalia, Egypt and Kenya, expressing concern for his health and appealing for his release on “humanitarian grounds”.

Siamak, who was born in Iran and educated in the US, worked as a business consultant in Iran for several years.

Detente alarms hardliners

Mizan, the Iranian judiciary’s official news site, published on Sunday video images of Siamak, set to dramatic music and spliced together with images of US President Barack Obama and Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who was released from an Iranian jail in January after more than 18 months in detention.

Tehran’s deal with world powers lifted most international sanctions and promised Iran’s reintegration into the global community in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.

The potential detente with the West has alarmed Iranian hardliners, who have seen a flood of European trade and investment delegations arrive in Tehran to discuss possible deals, according to Iran experts.

Security officials have arrested dozens of artists, journalists and businessmen, including Iranians holding joint American, European or Canadian citizenship, as part of a crackdown on “Western infiltration”.

On its Persian-language news site, Fars named the other four sentenced on Monday as Farhard Abdulsaleh, Kamran Qaderi, Nezar Zakka and Alireza Omidvar. Zekka has been previously identified as a US resident from Lebanon. No further details can be released, prosecutor Jafari Dolatabadi told Fars.

Source: News Agencies