A relative of two U.S. citizens imprisoned in Iran is pressing President Trump to increase the administration's efforts to bring them home after his elderly father was rushed to the hospital this week for the fourth time in the last year.
Babak Namazi, the son of Baquer Namazi and brother of Siamak Namazi, who have been held against their will in Iran's notorious Evin prison, said his father’s health is "deteriorating rapidly and he and my family are running out of time."
"The conditions under which he has been held are exacerbating his frail health and he will not survive much longer," Babak Namazi said of his 81-year-old father.
"I beg the Iranian authorities to show mercy on humanitarian grounds and to at least release my father so he can be cared for by his family in the few short years he has left," Namazi continued. "Nothing will be gained by his death in Iran's custody and too much has been lost already."
Namazi also brought up President Trump's comments while campaigning for president that he would not tolerate Iran taking Americans hostage.
"It is a full year now that this promise has been unfulfilled, and my family needs the president to redouble his efforts to bring Siamak and my dad home," he urged.
Baquer Namazi on Monday suffered a severe drop in blood pressure, an irregular heart beat and felt a serious depletion of energy, in addition to turning pale, according to his attorney, Jared Genser.
Initially, Baquer Namazi was sent to a hospital that did not have a cardiac care unit and where his cardiologist did not have practicing privileges, Genser said. He was then transferred back to Evin prison Monday before being sent to an appropriate hospital Tuesday evening.
Namazi was resting comfortably and receiving numerous tests by Tuesday, but his cardiologist has yet to determine what caused the health crisis, his attorney said. In September, Namazi underwent emergency heart surgery to install a pacemaker to regulate his heart and keep him alive. He surgery followed a five-day delay in Evin prison officials reacting to a physician's recommendation of immediate hospitalization.
The Namazis face sentences of 10 years in prison after an Iranian court convicted them of espionage charges, which the men deny. Siamak Namazi was imprisoned during a visit to Iran in the fall of 2015 after a deal between the U.S. and Iranian government to roll back their nuclear capability survived Congressional scrutiny and during so-called side-deal negotiations on the agreement's implementation.
His father Baquer traveled to Iran in February 2016 to try to press for his son's release and the government imprisoned him too. The two have undergone a series of harsh interrogations and for extended periods have been placed in solitary confinement.
Genser called on Trump to personally engage in these cases and for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to again press Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to immediately release Baquer Namazi on humanitarian grounds.
The renewed plea for action comes just days after Iran released 400 people the Iranian government jailed during protests against the regime that swept across the country in late December, according to Iran's state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
Tehran's Public and Revolution courts prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi urged judges to process cases of other protesters and rioters and prepare the grounds for their immediate release, IRNA reported Sunday. He said that left only 55 "suspects" still under detention in Tehran. Iranian authorities have said a total of 450 people were arrested during the wave of protests but other authorities in Iran have claimed that the number is much higher, up to 3,700.
The Trump administration, as well as prominent lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have vocally supported the protesters and called for the release of all dissident prisoners.
Last week a group of prominent bipartisan U.S. House lawmakers introduced legislation calling for new sanctions for Iranian officials involved with human rights abuses and hostage taking.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R., Texas) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D., Fla.), along with Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R., Calif.) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), the ranking member of the panel, cosponsored the bill, which would, among other things, require the president to determine whether senior members of the Iranian government are "responsible for or complicit in" committing human rights violations and should be sanctioned.
It also describes the Iranian regime's practice of taking Americans or those with strong U.S. ties and other foreign nationals hostage in an attempt to extort ransom payments for their release.
The bill specially cites the unlawful detention of a "significant number of Americans" including Nizar Zakka, Siamak and Baquer Namazi, and Xiyue Wang in violation of international norms.