Son demands Iran free ailing father for urgent medical care

Filed on October 5, 2021
Babak Namazi, the son of Baquer Namazi. — AP file

84-year-old Baquer Namazi requires an operation within days to clear up a severe blockage in the main artery

The son of an Iranian-American man who has been detained in Iran for more than five years called for his father’s immediate release on Monday so that he can receive emergency and potentially life-saving surgery.

Baquer Namazi, 84, requires an operation within days to clear up a severe blockage in the main artery that supplies blood to his brain, according to his son, Babak, and the family’s lawyer, Jared Genser.

“My father has already lost so much precious time. I’m begging Iran to let him spend whatever small amount of time he has left with his family,” Babak Namazi told reporters on Monday in urging Iran to lift a travel ban that has kept his father inside the country.

The elder Namazi, a former UNICEF representative and dual Iranian-American national, was detained in 2016 when he travelled to Tehran to try to win the release of his son Siamak Namazi, a businessman arrested in Iran months earlier. Both Namazis were sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran on what the United States and United Nations says were trumped-up spying charges.

Baquer Namazi was granted medical furlough in 2018 and his sentence was subsequently commuted to time served, but Iranian authorities have not permitted him to leave the country. Siamak Namazi remains jailed in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, and Babak Namazi reiterated on Monday his demands for his brother’s release as well.

Baquer Namazi’s doctors have said that he needs surgery within seven to 10 days to avoid a potentially catastrophic stroke, his son said. The family and its supporters have made their demands known to Iran, but are also seeking direct intervention from President Joe Biden’s White House. The legal team on Monday filed an appeal seeing help from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health.

“The time for best efforts is over,” Genser said. “The time for action is now.”

Later in the day, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Biden administration repeatedly raises with Iran its concerns about “Americans and other foreign nationals who are unjustly held against their will.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that Iran should allow Namazi “to seek the medical attention necessary to save his life.”

Blinken added: “It’s been almost six years since he’s seen his children. At a time like this, he should be surrounded by his entire family.”

The clear hope is for the elder Namazi to be transferred away from Iran to receive surgery given how preoccupied hospitals there have been with treating Covid-19 patients. If he is not permitted to leave within days, Babak Namazi said, his father will have to undergo the operation in Iran — a less than ideal scenario.

“If it’s between him dying and not dying, of course it’s an option,” Babak Namazi said.

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