Two Iranian-Americans, Siamak Namazi and his father Mohammad Baquer Namazi, are both in prison in Iran. Siamak was arrested about six months ago, and his father was arrested nearly two months ago, but reasons for their detention remain unclear. Neither man has been charged or given access to a lawyer, but both are undergoing interrogations. On March 18, US Secretary of State John Kerry told Agence France Presse “We have no information about charges against Siamak Namazi and Baquer Namazi, and we believe that they have been arrested unjustly.” He demanded their immediate release.
Now, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, the Namazi family’s lawyer, tells IranWire the examining magistrate in the case has issued a ruling refusing access to the men’s case files. In an interview with IranWire in March, Tabatabaei said he had been denied access to his clients, but this ruling makes the ban official.
Tabatabaei says the magistrate’s decision is based on the new Islamic Penal Code that became law in 2013. According to a provision added to Article 191 of this code,
“If the examining magistrate concludes that access to certain or all papers, documents and evidence in a case goes against the necessity to find the truth, or the crime relates to domestic or foreign security of the country, then he can issue a verdict banning their accessibility. This verdict will be conveyed to the defendant or his lawyer in person.”
As a result, Tabatabaei must wait for the case to go to court. Until then, he says, “We have no leverage over the prosecutor.”
Tabatabaei has not been able to register as the Namazis’ “attorney-on-record.” He has also been refused power of attorney based on a provision added to Article 48 of the new penal code, which reads, “In the investigative period of security crimes, only lawyers approved by the Judiciary Chief are acceptable.”
But, Tabatabaei says, the judiciary chief has yet to send a list of approved lawyers to the courts. “Since the list does not exist, security defendants are deprived of the right to access a lawyer.” Tabatabaei has requested correspondence with the judiciary chief to get his approval to represent the Namazis, but has not received an answer. “Considering the decision of the examining magistrate, I will not be able to access the case even if they authorize me as the attorney-on-record,” he says.
Siamak Namazi is the head of strategic planning for Crescent Petroleum in the United Arab Emirates. He was arrested in Tehran in October 2015, while visiting family. His 80 year-old father, Baquer Namazi, was arrested on February 22 by Revolutionary Guards intelligence agents after he travelled to Iran to visit his son.
Following the arrest, Baquer Namazi’s wife, Effie Namazi, wrote on Facebook that her husband was suffering from heart problems and was in need of treatment and medication. At the time of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Baquer Namazi was the governor of Iran’s southwestern province of Khuzestan. He later worked for UNICEF until his retirement in 1996.
Carol Bellamy, UNICEF’s executive director, wrote that Namazi’s “pioneering work on children affected by war broke new ground and led the way to greater attention that the world gives today to children in especially difficult circumstances.” She said Namazi had made significant contributions to the rights of children around the world, and expressed gratitude to him “on behalf of the countless children and women” whose lives he had changed.
“Part of a Large-Scale Operation”
No Iranian government agency has announced details about the father and son’s arrest. But on February 26, Fars News, which is closely linked to the Revolutionary Guards, published a report saying that Baquer Namazi’s detention was part of a large-scale operation to crack down on “complex layers of vast financial and intelligence corruption by a network linked to the UK and to America.”
According to Fars News, Siamak Namazi is charged with “membership in, and extensive connections to, agencies linked to to the United Nations; connection to Gary Sick [a specialist in Iranian affairs and a member of the US National Security Council under presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan], membership of the Gulf/2000 Project [a project at Columbia University run by Gary Sick]; close ties to US State Department spokesman Alan E. Eyre and John D. Sullivan, the executive director of CIPE [the Center for International Private Enterprise] and connections to the Ford Foundation and the NIAC [the National Iranian American Council].”
The article said Baquer Namazi’s arrest was not connected to his son’s case.
Tabatabaei is unsure what to make of such media reports. “I really have no information about the charges,” he says. “but Siamak told his mother during a visit that he had been charged with ‘cooperation with hostile governments.’” Tabatabaei says his client rejects the charge. “According to the Supreme Council of National Security, which responded to an enquiry about this, Iran does not consider the US to be a hostile government,” says Tabatabaei. “A ‘hostile government’ has a clear definition and legally it is the job of the Supreme Council of National Security to define it.”
Tabatabaei says Siamak and Baquer Namazi are still detained at Evin’s Ward 2A, which is controlled by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Unit. “They are in separate cells,” says Tabatabaei. “They are not in solitary confinement. They are kept in cells designed for two inmates, but they usually have no contact with any other person.”
Effie Namazi was able to visit her son and her husband before the start of Iranian New Year holidays on March 20, but has since left Iran.