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Wrongful Detention of Americans in Iran

Composite image of five Western-linked detainees held by Iran. From left to right: Xiyue Wang, Baquer Namazi, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Siamak Namazi and Nizar Zakka.

Along with other foreign nationals, several U.S. citizens are currently held unjustly or wrongfully in Iran.

Wrongful Detention of Americans in Iran
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Iran is one of the countries that tragically uses detention of foreign nationals and dual citizens for political leverage. Along with other foreign nationals, several U.S. citizens are currently held unjustly or wrongfully in Iran.

One of them is a former UNICEF official, Baquer Namazi. The Iranian government released the ailing 84-year-old Iranian-American from prison last year because of his serious medical problems, but has barred him from leaving the country.

Baquer Namazi was arrested five years ago after he flew to Iran to visit his son Siamak, a businessman who had been unjustifiably arrested and imprisoned in Iran in 2015. Both father and son were falsely charged with cooperating with an enemy power.

On the anniversary of Baquer Namazi’s arrest, Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens tweeted, “Today is another sad day @FreetheNamazis as this American family continues to be separated. For five years, Iran has held U.S. citizen Baquer Namazi while his son Siamak is wrongfully held in Evin Prison. #Iran must allow them to be reunited and together in freedom.”

In a television interview, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan called the unjust detention of American citizens in Iran a “complete and utter outrage.” He said the Biden-Harris administration has begun to communicate with the Iranians on this issue and is sending a strong message: “We will not accept a long-term proposition where they continue to hold Americans in an unjust and unlawful manner,” said National Security Adviser Sullivan. “It will be a significant priority of this administration to get those Americans safely back home.”

Iran is not the only country to unjustly detain foreign nationals for political advantage, and Americans are not the only victims. Recently some 58 countries, including the United States, endorsed a Canadian-led declaration denouncing arbitrary detention in state-to-state relations.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that the practice of arbitrary detention is already prohibited under international human rights conventions. “But some countries still do it, and we as a global community have to stand against it,” he said. “It’s time to send a clear message to every government that arbitrarily detains foreign nationals and tries to use them as leverage: this will not be tolerated by the international community.”