Iran treatment of American with dual citizenship called threat to expatriates hoping to return

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Teheran’s detention of a businessman with dual Iranian-American citizenship may have a chilling effect on expatriates hoping to return to do business in post-sanctions Iran.

Siamak Namazi, while visiting family in October, was detained by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), according to a source who declined to be identified. Iranian authorities have yet to announce any charges against him.

Siamak Namazi
Siamak Namazi.  /Reuters/Handout

Namazi’s lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, said on Feb. 19 that Iran’s judiciary chief had not yet allowed him to meet his client. Such permission is required by Iranian law if an individual is accused of national security related crimes, Tabatabaei said.

“Not me, nor any other lawyer has received such permission from the head of judiciary so far,” Tabatabaei said. “His mother has met him a few times, but his father has not been allowed to see him.”

After five American citizens were released from Iranian prisons as part of a prisoner swap earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he had commitments from Iran that Namazi’s case would be resolved soon.

In a Feb. 20 post on Facebook, Namazi’s mother, Effie Namazi, said she had not been able to see her son for some time and did not know his condition. But she said she had received news through his cellmate’s family that Namazi had begun a hunger strike.

“This step by Siamak has greatly increased the worries of his family, because it will certainly hurt his health,” Effie Namazi wrote. “As a mother I ask officials to at least allow for me and his father to meet with Siamak as soon as possible and jointly convince him to quit his hunger strike.”

Ahmad Kiarostami, a friend of Namazi, said he worried that the hunger strike indicated Namazi had been driven to extreme measures by his detention.

“I don’t know what he wants, I don’t know what he needs,” Kiarostami said in a phone interview. “This is not a solution that the Siamak that I know comes to easily.”

Namazi, born in Iran and educated in the U.S., was most recently working for Crescent Petroleum, an oil and gas company in the United Arab Emirates.