An Iranian-American imprisoned in Iran for nearly seven years on espionage-related charges has been allowed out of Tehran’s Evin prison on a one-week furlough, his lawyer said.
Siamak Namazi’s temporary release on Saturday came as his father, former United Nations official Baquer Namazi, who was also convicted on spying charges, was permitted to leave Iran for medical treatment.
It was not clear if the moves might be a step towards Siamak’s full release, nor whether it signals the possible furlough or release of other United States citizens detained in Iran.
Iranian Americans, whose US citizenship is not recognized by Tehran, are often pawns between the two nations, now at odds over whether to revive a fraying 2015 pact under which Iran limited its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
Soon after news of Siamak’s furlough broke, Iran’s Nournews said an unnamed regional nation had mediated between Tehran and Washington for the “simultaneous release of prisoners”. The semi-official news agency also reported that “billions of dollars of Iran’s frozen assets because of the US sanctions will be released soon”.
There was no official comment from the Iranian government.
Jared Genser, an international human rights lawyer handling the Namazi cases, said on Twitter that he was “delighted to confirm for the first time in seven years that Siamak #Namazi is spending a night at home with his parents in Tehran”.
“Baquer Namazi’s travel ban has been lifted. We won’t rest until they return to the US & their long nightmare has ended,” he added.
Baquer Namazi, a former UNICEF representative, was detained in 2016 when he travelled to Tehran to see his son, a businessman arrested in Iran months earlier. Both Namazis were sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran on what the US and UN say 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 had not permitted him to leave the country. Last October, he underwent surgery in Iran to clear a blockage in an artery to the brain that his family and supporters described as life-threatening.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Saturday that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was grateful that Baquer Namazi had been allowed to leave and was also pleased that his son had been released from detention.
Dujarric said the UN “will continue to engage with the Iranian authorities on a range of important issues, including the regional situation, sustainable development and the promotion and protection of human rights”.
The US Department of State also said it was gratified to learn of Iran’s actions and thanked allies and partners who worked to help the Namazis, including the UN Secretary-General, Oman, Qatar, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
Other US citizens detained in Iran include environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, 67, who is also a British citizen, and businessman Emad Shargi, 58. A state department spokesperson said the US is working to bring those two home as well as Siamak Namazi.
The moves come as Iran is also grappling with the biggest show of opposition to its clerical authorities since 2019 with dozens of people killed in unrest across the country ignited by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman from Iran’s Kurdistan province, in police custody.