WASHINGTON (AP) — An ailing Iranian-American dual national held in Tehran was returned to prison Tuesday after Iran's government refused to agree to an extended medical release, his family and attorney said.
Iran's judiciary had allowed 81-year-old Baquer Namazi to leave Evin prison for a few days following recent surgery to install a pacemaker, but his family had hoped it would be extended. Lawyer Jared Genser said Namazi was assessed by Iran's medical examiner, who recommended he be allowed a three-month respite and left open the possibility it could be extended even longer.
Amid high hopes that Iran would allow the three-month leave, Namazi's family received a call Tuesday from prison officials informing them that he must return immediately. He was dropped off at the prison shortly thereafter, Genser said, calling it "tantamount to a death sentence that will be imposed quickly."
"I was looking forward to my father being home," said Babak Namazi, the prisoner's son.
He grew emotional as he read to reporters a written statement from his father stating that "much sacrifice is needed and I am willing to be one of the victims with the hope that the pain will not be in vain."
A former UNICEF representative who served as governor of Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province, the elder Namazi is one of a number of dual nationals detained since Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. He and his businessman son, Siamak, were both sentenced to 10 years in prison after closed-door trials. Analysts believe Iran is holding them as bargaining chips for future negotiations with the West.
Babak Namazi said his brother had been physically abused while in prison, including through electric shocks delivered by wires.
There was no immediate reaction from the government in Tehran. However, Iran's judiciary had previously sought to downplay any expectation Namazi would be released indefinitely despite the brief reprieve after his surgery.
Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein, in charge of U.S. public diplomacy, said the United States was "deeply disturbed that the Iranian government has returned Mr. Namazi to prison." Goldstein told reporters the U.S. would continue to call for his release and that of other Americans detained in Iran and would raise the issue with Iran "either directly or indirectly" at every opportunity.
Asked whether the U.S. was concerned Namazi may die in detention, Goldstein said: "We are concerned about that, and we would hope the Iranians would be concerned about that, too."
Namazi's return to prison came as Babak Namazi and his father's attorney were in Washington to meet with senior officials at the White House and the State Department about future efforts to secure his permanent release. Genser said they also planned to meet in New York with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
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