Siamak Namazi and his 80 year-old father, Baquer Namazi, have both been sentenced to 10 years in jail for “cooperating with the US” following an hour-long trial in Tehran.
Siamak, a Lebanese-based businessman with dual Iranian-American nationalities, was arrested in October 2015 under charges of “spying” although explicit charges were never revealed. His father, Baquer, a well-known UNICEF diplomat with years of experience, flew to Tehran to try to help his son but was himself arrested in February 2016. For months they both languished in jail with minimal contact with lawyers or family, but the 10-year conviction is still a huge blow to them and their family: Babak Namazi, Siamak’s brother and Baquer’s son calls his father’s conviction a “death sentence” due to his old age.
This in itself is another clue into the regime’s paranoia regarding foreign “interference” and its willingness to use dual-nationals as pawns in internal politics and foreign diplomacy. Convicting Western dual-nationals is bad for Hassan Rouhani’s efforts at “constructive engagement” with the West and these Western prisoners are extremely useful to pressure Western governments who want to do business with Iran. On signing the nuclear deal, 5 Western dual-nationals were released from prions under similar charges in return for a huge ransom, and now that Canada has renewed diplomatic relations with Iran, Tehran released Homa Hoodfar, a Canadian-Iranian national who spent four months in jail under similar charges.
The trial was held behind closed doors and their trial mirrors that of Nazanin Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who was sentenced to 5 years in jail for “secret” charges.
The predicament of the Namazis was only compounded by the manner in which Tehran informed the world of their convictions: an official Iranian news agency, Mizanonline, broke the news of their fate using a propaganda video which linked Iranian drones, imprisoned American sailors, Jason Rezaian and Barak Obama to the Namazis’ fate.
The government in Iran, nor the judiciary have reacted or issued statements in regards to the Namazis.The fate of the Namazis includes two critical message for Iranians who are living in the West and who hold dual nationalities:
- If you happen to be an Iranian national with dual nationalities from a Western country, you should be weary of travelling to Iran for fear of becoming another pawn in Tehran’s war against “foreign interference”.
- If you are a dual national from the West who happens to be arrested, you should understand from the outset that you will not receive a fair trial and you will be convicted to many years in jail.
It’s poignant to note that Muhammad Ali’s widow peened a letter to Ali Khamenei requesting for “Islamic mercy” for the Namazis only a few days before they were convicted. 10 years in jail for charges which are not even explained fully and no legal opportunity for defense. No, there is no “justice” nor “Islamic mercy” in Tehran. There is only a situation in which the hardline regime works in collusion with the IRGC and the judiciary to imprison Westerners as another means of gaining political points against Rouhani and as a means of improving deals with Western governments.