President Donald Trump has called for the immediate release all US nationals held in Iranian prisons.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Trump said: "It is time for the regime to free all Americans and citizens of other nations that they have unjustly detained.”
The demand follows the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declaration that Baquer and Siamak Namazi, the Iranian-American father and son held in an Iranian prison, are being held illegally. The group also called for their immediate release.
On September 19, former UNICEF official Baquer Namazi, 81, underwent surgery for a pacemaker to be installed. The operation followed pleas from his family after the Revolutionary Guards refused to take him to the hospital as recommended by a cardiologist on September 13. They informed Namazi that he will be taken back to Evin Prison today, despite needing ample recovery time. His health has deteriorated substantially since he was incarcerated in February 2016, and his family continues to express extreme worry about his condition.
Babak Namazi, the brother of Siamak and son of Baquer, said in a statement issued by Jared Genser, Founder of Freedom Now and the Namazis’ lawyer, “My family is rapidly running out of time. My father's health situation is dire and I am horrified that he is being returned from a major surgery to recover in Evin Prison. In his speech to the United Nations.. President Trump condemned North Korea for its 'deadly abuse' of Otto Warmbier. I hope and pray that my father and brother won't suffer the same fate at the hands of the Iranian government. I urge the President to spare no effort to bring my family home.”
On July 26, the US House of Representatives unanimously adopted resolution 317, calling for the unconditional release of United States citizens and legal permanent residents being held for political purposes.
As well as Baquer and Siamak Namazi, Iran is currently holding Lebanese citizen and permanent US resident Nizar Zakka, US citizen Karan Vafadari and his wife Afarin Niasari and Chinese-American student Xiyue Wang in prison. US officials also believe former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared on Iran’s Kish Island in 2007, is in an Iranian jail.
Jared Genser said in a statment that the UN Working Group's decision "explains in detail precisely why the detention of the Namazis is illegal and in violation of international law. It is time for Iran to resolve these cases and allow the Namazis to be reunited with their family."
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, an independent and impartial body, is currently comprised of representatives from five countries appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. In its recent declaration, it concluded that the Namazis had been denied a number of rights, including the right to legal representation and the right to be “informed promptly of the charges against them.”
The Working Group also found that the Namazis’ arbitrary detention was part of an “emerging pattern” of discrimination against Iranian-American citizens in Iran.