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Congress Calls for Immediate Release of US Hostages

July 27, 2017
Natasha Schmidt
2 min read
Robert Levinson pictured with some of his family
Robert Levinson pictured with some of his family
NIzar Zakka
NIzar Zakka
Baquer and Siamak Namazi
Baquer and Siamak Namazi

US politicians have called for President Trump to secure the release of American prisoners from Iranian jails, and urged the president to make the matter a top priority. 

On July 26, the US House of Representatives unanimously adopted resolution 317, which calls for the unconditional release of United States citizens and legal permanent resident aliens being held for political purposes.

The resolution was co-sponsored by Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Nita Lowey, Ted Deutch and Ted Poe. It calls for the release of Siamak and Baquer Namazi, Robert Levinson, Karan Vafadari and another US citizen, who has not been identified publicly. It also called for the release of permanent US residents Afarin Niasari and Nizar Zakka.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards arrested businessman Siamak Namazi in October 2015. When his father Baquer, a former UNICEF official, traveled to Iran in February 2016 to help secure his son’s release, he was also detained. 

Security agents arrested Lebanese citizen and permanent US resident Nizar Zakka on September 18, 2015 as he attempted to leave Iran after attending an information technology and communications conference in the capital.

Robert Levinson disappeared on Kish Island, an Iranian free trade zone in the Persian Gulf, in 2007. Despite contradictory statements from Iranian officials, it is believed that Levinson, a former FBI agent, is being held in an Iranian jail. In 2010, the family was sent a video of Levinson, in which he pleaded for help and said his health was deteriorating. 

Authorities arrested Karan Vafadari and his wife Afarin Niasari in July 2016. 

Following the passing of the resolution, Babak Namazi, the brother and son of Siamak and Baquer said:

"It was very emotional for me to be in the House gallery and see American democracy at work, with the Congress speaking in one voice to urge the immediate release of my father and brother. Juxtaposed against the extraordinary cruelty with which the Iranian government has treated my family, I have also been blessed with a tremendous outpouring of support from so many people eager to help with my family's plight."

Along with Babak Namzai, Levinson’s son Doug Levinson and Zakka’s son Omar Zakka testified before the House of Representative’s Middle East and North Africa sub-committee regarding the resolution. 


Leon Nitram
July 28, 2017



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