Iran’s Holding of 2 Americans Is Illegal, U.N. Experts Find

Jared Genser, left, a lawyer, with Babak Namazi in Vienna in April. Mr. Namazi’s father, photographed at far left, and brother, photographed at far right, are serving 10-year terms in Iran. CreditLeonhard Foeger/Reuters

SEPT. 18, 2017 – The New York Times – By RICK GLADSTONE- Iran’s imprisonment of a prominent Iranian-American father and son on vaguely defined charges of collaboration with the United States is illegal, and they should be freed, a United Nations panel of international legal experts has concluded.

Their opinion on the pair, Baquer and Siamak Namazi, has not been officially published, but it was released Monday by the American lawyer for the Namazis, just as Iran’s president was arriving for the General Assembly meetings in New York.

The lawyer, Jared Genser, took the step as part of an effort to pressure the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, over the issue of the imprisonment of the Namazis and other American citizens in Iran.

At least two additional Americans are known to be held — Xiyue Wang, a Princeton graduate student in history, and Karan Vafadari, a Tehran art dealer, while another, Robert Levinson, has been missing in Iran for a decade.

The 10-page opinion of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a panel of five experts in international humanitarian law, is not binding. But its determination that Iran’s imprisonment of the Namazis is illegal and must end could embarrass Mr. Rouhani, who has pledged to make his country more open and tolerant.

Baquer Namazi, 81, and Siamak Namazi, 45, both naturalized American citizens, were convicted last year and sentenced to 10-year terms on charges that have never been explained.

Their appeal was denied last month. President Trump has cited the case in his increasingly strident criticism of Iran, and he may mention them in his General Assembly speech on Tuesday.

The son, a public policy scholar and business executive who lived in Dubai and advocated improved relations between Iran and the United States, was arrested two years ago while visiting his family in Tehran.

The father, a former Unicef diplomat, was arrested in February 2016 after the Iranian authorities had granted him permission to visit his son in Evin Prison, in Tehran.

Both were denied access to legal representation, could not confront their accusers and have had health problems while imprisoned, Mr. Genser said. Both have been held in solitary confinement, the son has been tortured, and the father has a serious heart condition, he said.

The United Nations opinion said the “deprivation of liberty” by the Iranian authorities had violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rightsand the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“The working group requests the government of Iran to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation,” the opinion said. The remedy, it said, was to release the Namazis “immediately and accord them an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.”

Mr. Genser said the opinion validated his assertion that “it is time for Iran to resolve these cases and allow the Namazis to be reunited with their family.”

The lawyer, who is based in Washington, said he received the opinion, dated Aug. 22, in a letter from the working group this month that urged him to treat it “with discretion.” The Iran government also received a copy.

When the opinion will be posted on the United Nations website remains unclear.

Iran had no immediate response to the opinion. Officials there have said previously that their judiciary operates independently and that under the country’s laws, Iranian-American prisoners are considered Iranian citizens, with none of the consular rights afforded to foreign prisoners.

Mr. Rouhani’s visit to the United Nations also has been seen by advocates of Mr. Wang as an opportunity to press for his release. Mr. Wang, 37, a naturalized American from Beijing who is an avid scholar of Persian history, had been doing research for a doctoral thesis in Iran last year when he was arrested on espionage charges after having examined public archives. His incarceration, which Princeton knew about but kept quiet for fear of further imperiling him, was not disclosed until July, when Iran said he had been convicted and sentenced to 10 years.

At a vigil Friday evening at Princeton, Mr. Wang’s colleagues reiterated their contention that he was innocent.

“His Islamophilia, his intellectual curiosity and his ambition — that set him apart,” said Stephen Kotkin, a professor who is Mr. Wang’s doctoral thesis adviser. He said Princeton looked forward to his return “so that he can resume his work on the Ph.D. and fulfill his remarkable ambition.”

Christian Bischoff contributed reporting from Princeton, N.J.

Follow Rick Gladstone on Twitter: @rickgladstone.

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