TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's judiciary acknowledged Sunday that it has granted medical leave to an ailing 81-year-old Iranian-American convicted of espionage charges, one of a number of dual nationals swept up in detentions criticized by the United Nations.
However, a spokesman for Iran's judiciary sought to downplay any expectation Baquer Namazi would be put on an indefinite release following his recent surgery to install a pacemaker. Namazi, a former UNICEF representative who served as governor of Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province, was sentenced with his businessman son, Siamak, to 10 years to prison.
"Like many prisoners who can go on leave, he went on a three-day leave," spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi said in comments aired on state television. "When he was out of prison, they requested the leave to be extended for another three days."
"His leave must have come to an end yesterday or today," Ejehi added.
Jared Genser, a Washington-based lawyer for the Namazis, had been urging that the elder Namazi's release be extended.
"It is clear from the government's own doctors that returning him to prison would be tantamount to a death sentence," Genser said in a statement Thursday.
Genser said Sunday he believed Namazi would remain on leave until at least Monday. U.S. government officials also have called for their release.
The Namazis are among a number of dual nationals detained since Iran's nuclear deal with world powers. Analysts and family members of those detained have suggested that hard-liners in the Islamic Republic's security agencies use the prisoners as bargaining chips for money or influence. A U.N. panel in September described "an emerging pattern involving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of dual nationals" in Iran, which Tehran denies.
Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, so those detainees cannot receive consular assistance. In most cases, dual nationals have faced secret charges in closed-door hearings before Iran's Revolutionary Court, which handles cases involving alleged attempts to overthrow the government.
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.