Update: Iran sentences 2 Iranian-Americans 10 years for ‘spying’

Update: Iran 2 sentences Iranian-Americans 10 years for 'spying'
Iranian-US citizens Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer have been sentenced to 10 years in jail for 'spying' [Reuters]

An Iranian court has sentenced an Iranian-American businessman and his elderly father to 10 years in prison and fined $4.8 million, on charges of cooperating with the US, Iranian media reported on Tuesday. Iran

Iran’s Fars News Agency reported that the pair was among a group of six who were “sentenced for spying in Iran”.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in October 2015 detained Siamak Namazi, a businessman in his mid-40s with dual US-Iranian citizenship, while he was visiting family in Tehran.

Siamak Namazi was arrested nearly a year ago and became the first US citizen reported to have been detained in the country since the announcement of the Iranian nuclear program deal.

The IRGC in February arrested his 80-year-old father, Baquer Namazi, a former Iranian provincial governor and former UNICEF official who also has dual citizenship.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, quoted by Fars, confirmed their sentences.

The sentence comes after four US prisoners were released by Iran earlier this year as part of a US-Iran prisoner swap that granted clemency to seven Iranians indicted or imprisoned in the United States.

Security officials have arrested dozens of artists, journalists, and businessmen, including Iranians holding joint American, European or Canadian citizenship, as part of a crackdown on “western infiltration”.

Fars named the other four sentenced on Monday as Farhard Abdulsaleh, Kamran Qaderi, Nezar Zakka and Alireza Omidvar. Zekka has been previously identified as a US resident from Lebanon. No further details can be released, prosecutor Jafari Dolatabadi told Fars.

Read more: Iran announces indictments against 3 dual nationalities and a foreigner

“Shock and deep concerns”

A statement by family member Babak Namazi expressed “utter shock and dismay” at the news. He said that the 10 years handed to Baquer, 80, a former UNICEF official, is “tantamount to a life sentence.”

“This follows one court session of a few hours for each of them,” the statement reads. “The details of the charges are unknown to us as of yet.”

“Baquer Namazi had gone to Iran earlier this year to visit his son, Siamak, who was already in jail for several months.” Karim Sadjadpour, a friend of the family, said that “Siamak Namazi is a business consultant who wanted to improve ties between the U.S. and Iran.”

“Increasingly what the Iranian Revolutionary Guards do is they paint people like Siamak and his father — who are trying to be bridges between America and Iran — as Trojan horses who are trying to undermine and unseat the Iranian regime,” Sadjadpour adds.

The US State Department released a statement Tuesday calling for the immediate release of father and son.

“We join recent calls by international organizations and UN human rights experts for the immediate release of all US citizens unjustly detained in Iran, including Siamak and Baquer Namazi, so that they can return to their families,” the statement read.

Expressing “deep concerns,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a written statement that one of the citizens, Siamak Namazi, who is reportedly in his 40’s, was “unjustly detained in Iran for over a year.”

In a statement, UNICEF said that it is “deeply concerned for his health and well-being.” Baquer worked as the organization’s representative in Somalia, Kenya, and Egypt. “He worked tirelessly on behalf of children in all those positions, often in highly difficult circumstances. He deserves a peaceful retirement.”

Military trials

Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, meaning those detained cannot receive consular assistance. In previous cases involving dual nationals, like the detention of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, officials initially announced indictments had been handed down without providing specifics. Later, news organizations with close ties to security services offered details of the charges.

Those detained typically face trial in Iran’s Revolutionary Court, a closed-door tribunal which handles cases involving alleged attempts to overthrow the government. Rezaian was convicted but later released in January as part of a prisoner swap between Iran and the U.S.

Tehran’s deal with world powers lifted most international sanctions and promised Iran’s reintegration into the global community in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

The potential detente with the west has alarmed Iranian hardliners, who have seen a flood of European trade and investment delegations arrive in Tehran to discuss possible deals, according to Iran experts.

An analyst said that the Iranian hardliners are just trying to ‘delegitimize’ President Rouhani, whose government negotiated the nuclear deal” reached last year.