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Iran Sentences Two Americans for “Spying”

Michael Johnson
Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi, pictured in San Francisco in 2006, has been held in Iran since October 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

An Iranian court sentenced an Iranian-American businessman to 10 years in prison earlier this week, according to local Persian language media. Officials in Tehran accused Siamak Namazi of working with the U.S. government in what can only be characterized as the latest crackdown by the theocratic regime.

Iranian security forces originally detained Namazi in Tehran late last year. After his 80-year-old father, Baquer, traveled to Iran in February in an effort to secure his release, they arrested him as well. Four other defendants were put on trial with the Namazis, and according to the prosecutor, each has been found guilty of “espionage and collaboration with the American government.”

The verdict has been widely criticized in the West. Namazi’s brother called the sentences unjust and pointed that his elderly “father has been handed practically a death sentence.” Meanwhile, the State Department said it was “deeply concerned” and called for all “the immediate release of all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Iran.”

This week’s verdicts echo closely the detention of other dual Iranian-American nationals. Openly anti-Western segments of the Iranian government that still have close control over the judiciary, according to The New York Times, “regard people with dual Iranian and foreign citizenship as security risks.” Ultimately, the sentencing of American citizens on trumped-up charges shows how conservative Iranians can still influence relations with the West and highlights the Obama administration failure to leverage American power. Reports from Iran indicate that the government there believes the U.S. can be induced to pay ransom again for hostages as it did earlier this year to secure the release of former Washington Post Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian and others.