Thu, May 10, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Fate of US prisoners in Iran dim after pullout

The Guardian, NEW YORK

US President Donald Trump’s decision to torpedo the nuclear agreement with Iran has harmed the prospects of freedom for US dual citizens held by Tehran, analysts said.

At least four Iranian-Americans and one Chinese-American are being detained by Iranian authorities on charges their supporters and relatives say are bogus or unjustified. Several are held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

Wendy Sherman, a former senior US diplomat who led the US negotiating team on the Iran deal, said Trump’s decision would probably push the detainees’ captors to impose lengthier sentences.

“It so pains me to say that President Trump’s action today likely means that it will be even longer before Americans detained and missing in Iran come home,” Sherman said in an e-mail. “Every day those American families struggle for hope. Today’s reckless action makes that struggle harder.”

Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, agreed, saying that Trump’s move left Iranian-Americans in even greater danger.

“There’s little reason for the Iranians to extend a goodwill gesture to the US right now,” Ghaemi said.

Jared Genser, an attorney for two prisoners — father and son Bacquer and Siamak Namazi — said in an e-mail that he and a Namazi family member were due to meet senior White House officials yesterday to discuss Trump’s move.

Supporters are particularly concerned about the health of Bacquer Namazi, who is 82 and underwent heart surgery in September last year. He and his son, an energy executive, are serving 10-year sentences for supposedly “collaborating with enemy states,” which they deny.

Wang Xiyue (王希悅), a Chinese-American graduate student at Princeton University, was arrested in August 2016 while researching in Tehran and sentenced to 10 years in prison, apparently on charges of spying, which he denies.

A spokesman for Princeton, Michael Hotchkiss, said in an e-mail on Tuesday: “We continue to hope that this genuine scholar, devoted husband, and caring father will be released soon to return to his doctoral studies and his wife and child, who miss him dearly.”

Holly Dagres, an Iranian-American commentator who runs the Iranist newsletter, said: “If anything, Trump’s actions have provided Iranian hardliners more incentive to not only keep Americans imprisoned longer, but also take more dual nationals hostage to use them as pawns in their political dealings with the West.”

Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American businessman and a director of the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation (PHWF), was arrested in January with others from the PHWF and accused of espionage. An Iranian-Canadian member of the group died in February.

Karan Vafadari, an Iranian-American gallery owner in Tehran, was arrested with his wife in July 2016 and accused of serving alcohol and holding mixed-gender parties.

They, too, were later accused of spying, which they deny.

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