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Siamak Namazi, imprisoned since 2015 by Iran, has begun a hunger strike

Siamak Namazi, shown in this photo before his 2015 imprisonment, has begun a one-week hunger strike in Iran to mark seven years since he was left out of a prisoner swap that occurred when the Iran nuclear deal went into effect.
Namazi Family
Siamak Namazi, shown in this photo before his 2015 imprisonment, has begun a one-week hunger strike in Iran to mark seven years since he was left out of a prisoner swap that occurred when the Iran nuclear deal went into effect.

On the seventh anniversary of his being left behind in a U.S.-Iran prison swap, an American jailed in Iran is beginning a week-long hunger strike on Monday. Siamak Namazi, an Iranian American businessman, is pushing Iran and the U.S. to make a deal to free him.

In a letter to President Biden released by his lawyer, Namazi, 51, says he has the "unenviable title of the longest held Iranian American hostage in history." He says his captors enjoy taunting him about that. He plans to be on a hunger strike for the next seven days.

"Siamak remains behind bars in Iran's notorious Evin Prison, where he has endured prolonged solitary confinement, denial of access to medical care, and physical and psychological torture," according to a press release issued by Namazi's lawyer, Jared Genser.

Namazi was arrested in October 2015 on a business trip to Iran. He and his father Baquer Namazi, a retired UNICEF official who was detained when trying to visit his son in 2016, were both convicted in Iran on charges of cooperating with a hostile government, meaning the United States.

Last year, the increasingly frail elder Namazi was able to leave Iran to get medical treatment.

Siamak Namazi was left out of a prisoner swap that took place when the Iran nuclear deal went into effect in 2016. He was also excluded from subsequent deals.

The U.S. has repeatedly said it is working to free Namazi and other Americans it says are unjustly held by Iran. They include Emad Shargi, who was arrested in Iran in 2018, and Morad Tahbaz, detained there the same year.

In the letter to President Biden conveyed by his lawyer, Namazi says, "All I want sir, is one minute of your days' time for the next seven days devoted to thinking about the tribulations of the U.S. hostages in Iran" — an apparent reference to himself and the other two American prisoners. "Just a single minute of your time for each year of my life that I lost in Evin prison. Therefore, I will deny myself food for the same seven days, in the hope that by doing so you won't deny me this small request."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in December that he works on the issue every day. "It's a No. 1 priority to bring Americans anywhere who are being unjustly detained, to bring them home, to get them back with their families," he told CBS News.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Michele Kelemen
Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.