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US citizen jailed by Iran begins hunger strike, urges Biden for help

Siamak Namazi sends letter to Biden saying his efforts to urge US president for assistance were 'to no avail'
Namazi is among several Americans currently detained in Iran, including environmentalist Morad Tahbaz and businessman Emad Shargi.
Namazi is among several Americans currently detained in Iran, including environmentalist Morad Tahbaz and businessman Emad Shargi (AFP/File photo)

An Iranian American imprisoned in Iran has started a week-long hunger strike and sent a letter on Monday to US President Joe Biden, pleading to bring him home.

In his letter, which was shared on Monday by his lawyer, Siamak Namazi said he would be on a hunger strike for seven days and he asked Biden to spend a minute each day for the next week thinking about the suffering of Americans detained in Iran.

"When the Obama Administration unconscionably left me in peril and freed the other American citizens Iran held hostage on January 16, 2016, the US Government promised my family to have me safely home within weeks," Namazi said.

"Yet seven years and two presidents later, I remain caged in Tehran's notorious Evin prison."

Namazi was arrested in October 2015 on charges of trying to overthrow the state, accusations that he denies.

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His father, Baquer, who travelled to Iran in 2016 out of concern for his detained son, was subsequently arrested on espionage-related charges. He was released two years later but banned from travelling and then was finally allowed to leave Iran in October 2022 for medical treatment.

The letter falls on the seventh anniversary of the release of five US citizens in a prisoner exchange with Iran which coincided with the implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Namazi is among several Americans currently detained in Iran, including environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, 67, who also has British nationality; and businessman Emad Shargi, 58.

A White House National Security Council spokesperson told CBS News that the government was committed to securing the freedom of Americans detained in Iran.

"We remain committed to securing the freedom of Siamak Namazi, and we are working tirelessly to bring him home along with all US citizens who are wrongfully detained in Iran, including Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz," the spokesperson said.

The Biden administration has been urged to help secure the release of several Americans who have been detained in countries in the Middle East. Last July, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a call with the families of individuals who have been detained abroad.

However, the families of individuals imprisoned in Egypt or Saudi Arabia were not invited, sparking anger from those relatives.

"In the past, I implored you to reach for your moral compass and find the resolve to bring the US hostages in Iran home. To no avail. Not only do we remain Iran’s prisoners, but you have not so much as granted our families a meeting," the letter from Namazi said.

Last year, the US engaged in several prisoner swaps to free Americans detained in other countries, including striking a deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan and engaging in a high-profile swap that saw American basketball player Britney Griner freed in exchange for the release of the notorious arms dealer, Viktor Bout.

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