Jailed Iranian American starts hunger strike, appeals to Biden

Siamak Namazi was arrested in October 2015 and charged with trying to overthrow the state, which he denies.

Family handout picture of Iranian-American consultant Siamak Namazi with his father Baquer Namazi
Iranian-American consultant Siamak Namazi, right, is pictured with his father Baquer Namazi in this undated family handout picture [File: Reuters]

An Iranian American imprisoned in Iran has started a seven-day hunger strike and appealed to United States President Joe Biden to bring him home.

Siamak Namazi made the plea on Monday in a letter to Biden on the seventh anniversary of the release of five US citizens in a prisoner exchange with Iran, choreographed to coincide with the implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Namazi was arrested in October 2015 on charges of trying to overthrow the state, accusations Namazi denies.

His father Baquer, who travelled to Iran in 2016 out of concern for his detained son, had also been arrested on espionage-related charges and released two years later but banned from travelling. He was finally allowed to leave Iran in October for medical treatment.

Namazi said in his letter he would be on a hunger strike for seven days, asking Biden to spend one minute a day for the next week thinking about the suffering of US citizens detained in Iran.

They include environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, 67, who also has British nationality, and businessman Emad Shargi, 58.

“When the Obama Administration unconscionably left me in peril and freed the other American citizens Iran held hostage on January 16, 2016, the US Government promised my family to have me safely home within weeks,” Namazi said in the open letter released by his lawyer, Jared Genser.

“Yet seven years and two presidents later, I remain caged in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.”

“My captors enjoy taunting me about that fact by saying things like: ‘How can your beloved America be so heartless? Not one but two US presidents freed others but left you behind!'” Namazi said.

Asked for comment, a White House National Security Council spokesperson said the government was committed to securing Namazi’s freedom.

“We are working tirelessly to bring him home along with all US citizens who are wrongfully detained in Iran,” the spokesperson said. “Iran’s wrongful detention of US citizens for use as political leverage is outrageous.”

Iran’s government generally refuses to acknowledge dual citizenship and on Saturday announced the execution of a British citizen, Alireza Akbari, accused of spying for his adopted country.

Akbari had previously served as a deputy defence minister in Iran and was accused by its government of involvement in the assassination of a nuclear scientist.

Source: News Agencies