Iran Jails U.S.-Iranian Consultant, Father on Spying Charges

  • Two sentenced to 10 years in prison, top prosecutor says
  • Hardliners oppose president’s outreach to western nations

Iran sentenced Iranian-American business consultant Siamak Namazi and his father to 10 years in jail for spying and “cooperation” with the U.S. government, a judiciary official said.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi gave no further details of the sentencing, according to the state-run Fars news agency. He said Lebanese technology expert Nizar Zakka, who has U.S. residency and was indicted in July, also received a 10-year term.

“It is with utter shock and dismay that we have learned of the news of the unjust sentencing,” Babak Namazi, brother and son of the two men, said in a written statement circulated on Twitter by friends. “In the case of my father, this is tantamount to a life sentence.”

Iranian authorities have held Siamak Namazi since October 2015, while his 80-year-old father, Baquer Namazi, was arrested in February. A video released by state media on Monday showed the younger Namazi with his hands raised, as well as shots of his U.S. passport and United Arab Emirates resident card.

U.S. Response

The U.S. is “deeply concerned” about the Namazi sentencing, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. He called for “the immediate release of all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Iran, including Siamak and Baquer Namazi, so that they can return to their families.”

UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, expressed “deep sadness and personal concern” over the sentence of Baquer Namazi, a former provincial governor and a former UNICEF representative who retired in 1996.

Siamak Namazi headed a consulting firm in Tehran in the early 2000s. He most recently was based in Dubai, where he worked as head of strategic planning at Sharjah-based Crescent Petroleum. Born in Iran and educated in the U.S., he was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2007. Friends and family of the Namazis have rejected claims of wrongdoing.

The government of President Hassan Rouhani, who last year pushed through a nuclear deal with world powers, has encouraged the Iranian diaspora to invest money and expertise back home. Yet hard-liners in Iran who dominate the judiciary and state security bodies remain deeply suspicious of foreign influence in the Islamic Republic.

In his statement, Babak Namazi said his father has a heart condition and other ailments. The octogenarian had “dedicated his life and efforts to poverty alleviation and helping disaster victims,” he said, while Siamak’s “only crime has been to speak out against negative effects of sanctions and how sanctions prevented Iranian people’s ability to obtain medicine.”

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