An ailing 81-year-old Iranian-American who Iranian authorities recently returned to prison against the advice of doctors was rushed the hospital with a racing heart rate Sunday, according to his attorney.
Baquer Namazi, who has a pacemaker and has suffered life-threatening heart problems in Iran's notorious Evin prison for two years, was sent to the hospital late Sunday night when his heart rate doubled from its usual 60 beats per minute to 120 beats per minute.
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He also experienced fluctuations in blood pressure and a severe loss of energy, his attorney Jared Genser said in a statement.
His family once again fears he could die at any time and has pleaded with Iranian authorities to release him on humanitarian grounds.
"I don't know what needs to happen for the Iranian authorities to allow my father to stay out of prison and heed the advice of their own medical examiner panel," said Namazi's son, Babak Namazi. "I beg the authorities to let him stay home on parole on humanitarian grounds."
Genser argued Iranian authorities will be "directly responsible if anything happens to Baquer Namazi." He has previously said returning Namazi to prison from medical leave would amount to a "death sentence."
"He must be immediately released on medical parole," Genser said. "And Iran must act expeditiously to engage with the United States to find a resolution to all these wrongly imprisoned American cases, including Baquer's son Siamak Namazi, who also remains imprisoned."
In late January, Iranian authorities released Baquer Namazi on a week-long medical leave, after which the country's medical examiner recommended he remain released for at least three months to seek specialized medical care, his family and attorney said.
However, the family's hopes were dashed when Tehran decided to send Namazi back to Evin prison, instead of extending the medical furlough. Namazi's personal doctors have said the prison conditions are contributing to his heart problems.
The decision to return Namazi to the prison earned a sharp rebuke from the White House, which said it would hold the Iranian government "fully accountable" for Namazi's well-being and called for his immediate and unconditional release.
Genser and the Namazi family also disclosed a separate incident on Monday, a previously unreported health scare that occurred Feb. 7 when they said Baquer Namazi suffered a severe drop in blood pressure and was so weak that he couldn't walk. He was taken by stretcher to Evin prison's infirmary where he was given IV fluids and medication, they said.
Evin prison authorities also are denying medical attention to Nizar Zakka, another imprisoned U.S. permanent resident, even though an Iranian doctor hired by his family has diagnosed him with colon cancer, his attorney told the Center for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based nonprofit last week.
The attorney, Jason Poblete, said Zakka needs a colonoscopy to confirm the diagnosis, but the Iranian government won't allow it. In addition, Zakka, a Lebanese-born informational technology expert and internet freedom advocate, was taken to Evin's clinic for oxygen last week because he was coughing up blood and could be suffering from bronchitis.
Poblete also said Zakka and his American cellmate, Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-American and Princeton graduate student, also believe prison officials are drugging their food to make them sleepy.
Poblete argued that western leaders who plan visits to Iran, including French President Macron who is planning a trip scheduled for March, should condition their travel on Iran's release of all unjustly detained people, U.S. citizens as well as those from European countries and elsewhere.
The Iranian government rebuffed attempts by the Trump administration late last year to develop a channel of communication about Americans held in Iran and prisoners the U.S. government has prosecuted, according to sources familiar with the details of the efforts.
One source, however, downplayed suggestions that the Trump administration would consider a prisoner swap without reforms related to Tehran's breach of international law through its continued firing of ballistic missiles and other issues related to the nuclear deal.