BY ERIC TUCKER
WASHINGTON (AP) – The son of an Iranian-American man who has been incarcerated in Iran for more than five years called on Monday for his father’s immediate release so he can receive emergency and potentially life-saving surgery.
Baquer Namazi, 84, must undergo surgery within days to clear a severe blockage in the main artery that supplies blood to his brain, according to his son Babak and family lawyer Jared Genser.
“My father has already lost so much precious time. I beg Iran to let him spend the rest of the time with his family, ”Babak Namazi told reporters on Monday, calling on Iran to lift a travel ban that kept his father in the country.
The elderly Namazi, a former UNICEF representative and dual Iranian-American citizen, was arrested in 2016 while traveling to Tehran to visit his son Siamak Namazi, a businessman who was arrested in Iran months earlier. Both Namazis were convicted in Iran of allegedly fabricated espionage charges.
Baquer Namazi was granted medical leave in 2018 and his sentence was subsequently commuted to serving, but the Iranian authorities have not allowed him to leave the country. Siamak Namazi remains detained in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, and Babak Namazi reiterated his calls for his brother to be released on Monday.
Baquer Namazi’s doctors said he would need surgery within seven to ten days to avoid a potentially catastrophic stroke, his son said. Namazi supporters have made their demands on Iran known, but are also calling for direct intervention by President Joe Biden’s White House.
The legal team asked the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health for help on Monday and wrote in a detailed document that “Baquer is particularly at high risk of death due to the severity of its medical problems unless Iran turns back quickly.
“The time of best efforts is over,” Genser told reporters. “The time to act is now.”
Later in the day, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Biden administration had repeatedly raised concerns about Iran about “Americans and other foreigners being wrongly detained against their will.” And Foreign Minister Antony Blinken tweeted that Iran should allow Namazi “to get the necessary medical care to save his life”.
Blinken added, “It’s been almost six years since he saw his children. At a time like this he should be surrounded by his whole family. “
Elderly Namazi’s lawyers say they are desperate that he is being treated outside of Iran as hospitals have been overwhelmed with treating COVID-19 patients and the risk to his health. If he is not allowed to leave the country within days, Babak Namazi said, his father will have to undergo the operation in Iran – a less than ideal scenario.
“Of course, if he dies and doesn’t die, that’s an option,” said Babak Namazi.
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