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Iran Grants Iranian-American Prisoner 4 Days Of Sick Leave

Jan 29, 2018
Originally published on January 29, 2018 11:35 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

An American imprisoned in Iran is temporarily free. Baquer Namazi was given four days out of prison while being treated for a heart condition. He is 81 years old. He's the father of another U.S. citizen, Siamak Namazi, also imprisoned on vague charges of spying. Because both are Iranian-American, Iran recognizes them only as Iranians and has been turning aside calls for their release. Babak Namazi is on the line from Dubai. He is the son of one prisoner, the brother of another. He joins us once again via Skype. Welcome back to the program.

BABAK NAMAZI: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: How's your father doing?

NAMAZI: It's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking to hear your loved one in pain and in such poor health. And you feel so helpless. Him having little energy, him sounding so weak really horrifies me. I'm just desperate.

INSKEEP: How hard was it to win even this little bit of fresh air?

NAMAZI: Nothing has been easy for the past two years. Both my father and my brother have been under very stressful and difficult conditions. I feel, after a long time, that we've seen a very dim light in the tunnel. It's sad to say this, but - that my father being hospitalized has risen some hope for us. But I fear for his life. And I feel any return to prison would ultimately lead to his death.

He's been hospitalized on four occasions in the past year. He's already lost 30 pounds, had a pacemaker installed. And now, on this last hospitalization, it was due to a severe, life-threatening drop in his blood pressure. I don't know what else it takes for the Iranian government to show compassion and not return my 81-year-old father back to these horrific conditions.

INSKEEP: Now, officially, it's just four days out. Have you heard any unofficial sense that the government might reconsider that and let him stay out longer?

NAMAZI: We've been told the stay will be only through Thursday.

INSKEEP: And that's it.

NAMAZI: Well, I'm praying. I'm hoping. I'm hanging onto the thought that humanity will prevail and no one is that cruel to return someone to prison under these conditions.

INSKEEP: What are you hearing from the Trump administration, which has called for the release of political prisoners in Iran?

NAMAZI: The Trump administration I've been engaged with ever since the administration came to office. And I'm thankful for what they've done so far. Obviously, my father and my brother are both still in prison, so I do hope that - both that the U.S. government will redouble its efforts, spare no efforts to get my family out, especially my dad under these conditions right now. The United Nations has been very engaged, which I'm very grateful for. And I do (unintelligible). And I hope that that engagement - we're desperate for that engagement to continue, and we're desperate for all the help we can get to get my father out and keep him out of prison - and also my brother Siamak as well.

INSKEEP: Do you believe that there are some elements of Iran's government working within the government to get your father and your brother released?

NAMAZI: It is difficult for me to speculate what's going on. Again, in the darkest of times, you still try to hang onto humanity and that people will do the right thing. So I still want to hope that there are those in Iran who want this injustice to end and they want my father not to be - his life not to be endangered any further than it has been already.

INSKEEP: We've been listening to Babak Namazi, whose father and brother were convicted on charges of spying in Iran. Thank you very much.

NAMAZI: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.