Iran lets US man leave prison to see father

Iranian-American Siamak Namazi, who has been jailed in Iran for nearly seven years on espionage charges that Washington dismissed as unfounded, has been allowed out of Evin prison in Tehran for a week.

Separately, his father, former United Nations official Baquer Namazi, who was also convicted of “collaborating with a hostile government,” was allowed to leave Iran for medical treatment, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

It was unclear if the moves are a step toward Siamak’s full release or if they signal the possible release of other US citizens detained in Iran.

Iran’s Nournews said an unnamed regional nation mediated between Tehran and Washington for the “simultaneous release of prisoners.”

The semi-official news agency also reported that “billions of dollars in Iran’s assets frozen due to US sanctions will soon be released.”

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the department is grateful that Siamak Namazi was granted “humanitarian leave to be with his father.”

“We were deeply pleased to learn from the UN Secretary-General that Iran has lifted the travel ban imposed on Baquer Namazi,” he said in a statement.

It was unclear what motivated Tehran’s decisions.

Price thanked US allies and partners working to help the Namazis, including the UN Secretary-General, Switzerland, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and the United Kingdom.

Iran is grappling with the largest opposition demonstration against its clerical authorities since 2019, with dozens of people killed in unrest across the country sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman from Iranian Kurdistan, in police custody were ignited.

Baquer Namazi, 85, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran in 2016 for “collaborating with a hostile government”.

Iranian authorities released him on medical parole in 2018 and closed his case in 2020, commuting his sentence to serving time and preventing him from leaving the country.

Son Siamak, 51, has been in Evin prison since 2015 and was convicted in 2016 on the same charges as his father.

The US government has described the allegations against both as unfounded.

Family lawyer Jared Genser told Reuters that Siamak is staying with his parents at their apartment in Tehran.

“This is a crucial first step, but of course we will not rest until the entire family can return to the United States and their long nightmare is finally over,” Genser said.

Iranian-Americans, whose U.S. citizenship is not recognized by Tehran, are often pawns between the two nations and now bicker over whether to revive a torn 2015 pact under which Iran curtailed its nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions .

Other US citizens detained in Iran include environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, 67, who is also a British citizen, and businessman Emad Shargi, 58.

Karim Sadjadpour, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank in Washington, said the Namazis should never have been imprisoned.

“The Islamic Republic has no credit for temporarily releasing hostages who never deserved to spend a single day in prison,” he said.