U.S. prisoner in Iran receives pacemaker as a trump calls for Tehran to free him

Baquer Namazi and his son Siamak Namazi. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has said on Sept. 18, 2017, that both men, Iranian Americans serving 10-year prison sentences on spying charges in Iran, should be immediately released and paid restitution. (Babak Namazi / AP)

September 20, 2017 – Washington Post – By Carol Morello- An elderly U.S. Citizen with a heart disease was hospitalized and given a pacemaker Tuesday shortly before President Trump demanded that Iran release all Americans and other foreigners he described as being unjustly detained.

The health of Baquer Namazi, 81, who was undergoing triple bypass surgery before being imprisoned 18 months ago and convicted of spying in a secret trial, has raised concerns that former UNICEF official may die in detention.

At least three other Americans are imprisoned in Iran, and a quarter has been missing for a decade, but Namazi’s health is considered particularly fragile. The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, so it has asked Switzerland, the U.S. protecting power in Iran and other countries with embassies in the country to urge Tehran to release him.

Namazi was rushed to a hospital in Tehran on Monday, five days after a cardiologist recommended that he be taken immediately to a cardiac care unit for tests, Namazi’s son Babak said in an interview in New York City.

But the prison guards insisted that they take the elder Namazi back to Evin Prison, where a staff doctor said urgent hospital care was unnecessary, Babak Namazi said.

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On Monday, as Baquer Namazi’s health deteriorated, he was rushed to the hospital. An angiogram showed that his condition was serious enough that a pacemaker was put in, said Babak Namazi, who learned about his father’s health crisis from his family members in Iran. He was expected to be returned to Evin Prison on Wednesday, his son said.

“What’s next?” Said Babak Namazi, whose brother, Siamak, has also been convicted of spies and has been imprisoned in Evin for almost two years. “What do I need to do as a son to get my father home, alive?”

It is unclear whether any progress will be made at the United Nations this week on the case of the U.S. prisoners Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who addressed the U.N. The General Assembly is Wednesday, spoke with Secretary General António Guterres on Monday. But the U.N. The leader’s spokesman declined to say whether they had discussed Namazi. Foreign Policy reported that Guterres, who headed the refugee agency for which elder Namazi worked, wrote confidentially to Rouhani this summer asking for Namazi’s release on humanitarian grounds.

Relations between the United States and Iran, longtime foes that talk to each other only in the periodic joint committee hearings to discuss the progress of the 2015 nuclear deal, have worse since Trump came to office, pledging to ditch the agreement negotiated with Iran by Obama administration and five other world powers.

When the Iranian nuclear deal took effect in January 2016, it involved a prisoner swap that freed five Americans, including the Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian.

The United States hopes Iran will release on humanitarian grounds the remaining Americans, including two taken into custody since Iran’s deal was implemented.

Xiyue Wang, a Princeton graduate student, was arrested last August while conducting historical research and sentenced to 10 years for spying and “assisting a hostile government.” He also suffered health problems in detention.

Karan Vafadari, an Iranian American who owns an art gallery in Tehran, was arrested with his wife in July 2016 and accused of holding mixed-gender parties where the couple served alcohol.

A former FBI agent, Robert Levinson, has been missing in Iran for more than 10 years.

The case of Namazis, the father and son, has drawn the most attention, because they are well-known Iran American business executives. Siamak Namazi, who promoted closer ties between the United States and Iran, was arrested in October 2015. His father was picked up four months later when he went to Iran to try to free his son. Both were tried and convicted of collaborating with the United States and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

In his speech to the United Nations on Tuesday, Trump called on Iran to free all the Americans, although he did not mention their names.

“It’s time for the regime to free all Americans and citizens of other nations that they have been wrongly arrested,” he said.