‘Take us home’: American detained in Iran ends week-long hunger strike


WASHINGTON — Siamak Namazi, a U.S. citizen detained in Iran since 2015, ended his week-long hunger strike on Monday, urging the Biden administration to do whatever it takes to secure his freedom.

Namazi, currently the longest-held US prisoner in Iran, launched his seven-day strike to mark “each of the seven years of freedom” he has lost behind bars, describing his hunger protest as “a prisoner’s weapon of last resort”.

After his October 2015 arrest, Namazi was the only American not to have returned home from Iran as part of a January 2016 prisoner exchange negotiated under the Obama administration.

The Biden administration says it is “working tirelessly” to free Namazi and Iranian-Americans Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz, who also hold British citizenship. All three detainees, as well as US permanent resident Shahab Dalili, are being held on espionage charges that their families have dismissed as baseless.

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“Don’t let President Biden leave us in this abyss of misery,” Namazi said in a letter he wrote from prison.

“I continued [a] hunger strike because I learned the hard way that US presidents tend to rely more on their political thermometer than their moral compass when deciding whether or not to enter into a prisoner deal with Iran — or even who to include in a deal Namazi said in the letter, which was made public by his lawyer.

“It’s time to tie the claims that releasing us is a priority of the US government to the tough decisions needed to get us home,” he said.

Namazi’s weeks-long strike took a serious toll on his physical health. According to his lawyer, Namazi lost about 10 pounds, his blood pressure spiked above normal and he had trouble staying warm.

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His protest comes nearly two years after the Biden administration began indirect talks with Tehran over a possible prisoner exchange. When asked last week if those talks were underway, a State Department spokesperson told Al-Monitor: “We have ways of communicating with Iran on issues of concern, such as the issue of the release of US citizens who are at least wrongly detained in Iran. Those channels will remain open, but we will not describe them in detail.”

The Iranians claim they are willing to exchange the captives, reportedly in return for the release of billions of dollars in Iranian assets frozen abroad under US sanctions. A spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations said a prisoner deal is “very close” but requires “political will” from the Biden administration.

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The population in Tehran’s sprawling Evin Prison, where Namazi and the other Americans are held, has swelled since anti-government demonstrations broke out in September over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman held by the so-called morality police for allegedly violating the country’s strict hijab rules.

Iran is said to have arrested thousands of peaceful protesters. At least 109 of them face execution or the death penalty, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights.

Namazi ended his hunger strike on the same day the US Treasury Department announced new human rights sanctions against several Iranian officials involved in the regime’s crackdown on the months-long protests.


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