By Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON, Oct 4 (Reuters) – Lawyers for an 84-year-old Iranian American, who was formerly imprisoned by Iran and whose son remains jailed there, urged Tehran on Monday to let him leave the country for medical care, saying he needs immediate surgery for an arterial blockage.
Baquer Namazi was convicted of “collaboration 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 last year, commuting his sentence to time served.
However, his son, Siamak Namazi, 49, remains in prison in Iran after being convicted of the same charge. The U.S. government has described the charges against both as baseless.
Iranian Americans, whose U.S. 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.
In a letter to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, a lawyer for the family, Jared Genser, said the elder Namazi needed immediate surgery for a 95%-97% blockage in one of his internal carotid arteries, which supply blood to the brain.
It cited one physician as saying he required surgery within seven to 10 days and it argued this must be performed outside Iran both because recovery requires a stress-free environment and because Iranian hospitals are struggling with COVID-19.
The Iranian mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Genser said Namazi has been under an effective international travel ban since his case was closed, arguing that this, as well as his prior treatment by Iranian authorities, constitutes a violation of his “right to health” under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Genser asked the special rapporteur to investigate and to urge Iran to let Baquer Namazi travel abroad for treatment. He also told a virtual news conference he wanted U.S. President Joe Biden to “personally engage” to allow Namazi to travel.
“My dad is dying,” another son, Babak Namazi, told Reuters by phone from Dubai.
“My father has already lost so much precious time,” he told the virtual news conference, at times crying. “I am begging Iran to let him spend whatever small amount of time he has left with his family, my brother Siamak included.”
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed with additional reporting by Michelle Nichols Editing by Mark Heinrich)