Longest held Iranian-American hostage launches hunger strike in appeal to Biden for release News
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Longest held Iranian-American hostage launches hunger strike in appeal to Biden for release

In an open letter addressed to US President Joe Biden, Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi announced Monday he had commenced a hunger strike in Iran’s Evin Prison, where he has been imprisoned since 2015 on charges including espionage and colluding with a “hostile foreign government.”

Namazi, a US citizen, had been arrested in October 2015 but excluded from a prisoner swap between the US and Iran on January 16, 2016 under former President Barack Obama. He claims to have been promised he would be released “in a few weeks”; however, this never occurred. After Namazi’s father, Mohammad Baquer Namazi, visited Iran to meet his son, he too was arrested in February 2016 and sentenced for similar charges. Notably, Baquer Namazi formerly served as a governor under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, whose overthrow preceded the establishment of the present Islamic Republic of Iran. Baquer Namazi was released in October 2022 on medical grounds, over two years after commuting his sentence.

In the open letter, released by his lawyer on the seven-year anniversary of his exclusion from the prisoner swap, Namazi asked President Biden to spend one minute each over the next seven days thinking about US hostages in Iran. In exchange, Namazi, who has been subjected to solitary confinement and physical torture in prison, “offered” Biden his “additional suffering” by way of a hunger strike. Namazi stated:

The extent of my captors’ ruthlessness is not the only thing I’ve learned far more about during this insufferable years. I now know that I shouldn’t get my hopes up when senior [US] officials say that rescuing the hostages in Iran is their highest priority. Such well-intentioned statements can be repeated year after year without tangible results. Only the President of the United States has the power to bring us home, should he set his mind to do so.

In a 2017 opinion, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention agreed that the detention of Namazi was unlawful. In particular, the opinion found that Namazi was not fully allowed the presumption of innocence and that his detention violated his right to a fair trial and deprived him of his liberty.

In a comment attached to the open letter, Namazi’s brother made a plea to bring Namazi and two other Iranian-Americans, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz, back home to the US. Namazi and his lawyer, Jared Genser, who previously represented political prisoners like Nobel Peace Prize awardee Liu Xiaobo, will provide updates on the strike via their Twitter accounts.