An Iranian-American businessman who has been imprisoned in Iran for nearly seven years has been released from Tehran’s Evin prison on a one-week, extended leave, the UN announced on Saturday.
The release of detained Siamak Namazi comes as his father, Baquer Namazi, is allowed to leave Iran for medical treatment, says UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
“That [UN] The Secretary General is grateful that our former colleague Baquer Namazi, following his appeals to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, has been granted permission to leave Iran for medical treatment abroad,” said Dujarric.
Baquer Namazi is a former governor of Iran’s Khuzestan province and a former representative of what was originally known as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef).
“The Secretary-General is also pleased to learn that Baquer Namazi’s son, Siamak Namazi, has been released from detention,” Dujarric continued. “We will continue to engage with the Iranian authorities on a number of important issues, including the regional situation, sustainable development and the promotion and protection of human rights.”
Baquer Namazi was convicted in Iran of “cooperation with a hostile government” in 2016 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Iranian authorities released him on medical grounds in 2018 and closed his case in 2020, changing his sentence to time served but effectively barring him from leaving the country.
His son, Siamak, was convicted of the same charge and has been in Evin prison since 2015. The US government has described the charges against both as baseless.
It was unclear whether Siamak’s leave could be a step towards his full release. It was also not clear whether it signals a possible furlough or release of other US citizens detained in Iran.
“I am thrilled for the Namazi family that for the first time in seven years Siamak Namazi is sleeping at home with his family,” the lawyer representing the Namazi family, Jared Genser, told Reuters.
Genser added that Siamak Namazi lived with his parents in their apartment in Tehran.
“This is a critical first step, but of course we will not rest until the entire family is able to return to the United States and their long nightmare is finally over,” Genser also said.
Their release coincides with the height of intense protests against the Iranian regime following the death of Mahsa Aminia 22-year-old woman who was allegedly beaten by Iran’s morality police over headscarf laws.
Iran’s semi-official Nournews news agency reported on Saturday that a regional country has helped Iran and the United States mediate for the “simultaneous release of prisoners” shortly after Tehran allowed Siamak Namazi out of prison on a week’s leave.
“In recent weeks, intensive talks have been held with the mediation of a regional country on the release of Iranian and American prisoners,” the news agency said, without disclosing which country was the mediator.
The news agency also said billions of dollars of Iranian assets frozen by US sanctions would “soon be released”.
Iran said in August it was ready to swap prisoners with the United States after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that “Siamak Namazi had now spent 2,500 days wrongfully detained” in Iran. According to Blinken, Washington was determined to secure the freedom for all Americans that its Middle Eastern adversary had.
Tehran has sought the release of a dozen Iranians detained in the United States, including seven Iranian-American dual citizens, two Iranians with permanent U.S. residency and four Iranian citizens without legal status in the United States.
Reuters contributed reporting