The United States Senate has unanimously passed a resolution calling for the immediate release of Americans and legal permanent residents currently jailed in Iran. The resolution, which was tabled by Senators Cruz and Leahy and co-sponsored by eight other senators, was passed on October 31 and seeks to bring an end to the imprisonment of Siamak and Baquer Namazi, permanent resident Nizar Zakka, US citizen Karan Vafadari and his wife Afarin Niasari and Chinese-American student Xiyue Wang. US officials also believe former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared on Iran’s Kish Island in 2007, is in an Iranian jail.
But despite support for the unanimous decision, relatives of those held hostage in Iran have expressed frustration that President Trump has not opened direct communications with Tehran on the matter. They say the administration should open discussion about a possible prisoner swap.
“It shouldn’t be another tragedy like Otto Warmbier,” Babak Namazi told reporters on November 1. His comments refer to the US student held by North Korea for almost 18 months. When Warmbier was released in June 2017 and returned to the United States, he was in a coma and died a few days later.
Babak Namazi and other family members have expressed particular worry over the deteriorating health of his 81-year-old father, Baquer.
Jared Genser, the Namazi family’s lawyer, said in a statement:
“At this point, it is essential that President Trump do everything in his power to bring Baquer and Siamak Namazi home to prevent another tragedy at the hands of a cruel regime.”
In addition to the Senate passing resolution 245 on October 31, a parallel resolution, resolution 317, was unanimously adopted in the US House of Representatives on July 26, 2017.
In September, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared that Baquer and Siamak Namazi were being held illegally.