Iran’s longest-held American prisoner has made an emotional plea to US President Joe Biden to put the “liberty of innocent Americans above politics” and ramp up efforts to secure his release, in an unprecedented interview with CNN from inside Iran’s notorious Evin prison.
“I remain deeply worried that the White House just doesn’t appreciate how dire our situation has become,” said Siamak Namazi, speaking by phone with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
His voice occasionally choking up, Namazi added, “the very fact that I’ve chosen to take this risk and appear on CNN from Evin prison should tell you how dire my situation has become by this point.”
Namazi, 51, was arrested in 2015, when he was on a business trip to Iran, in what the UN has described as an “arbitrary detention.” He was charged with having “relations with a hostile state,” referring to the US, where Namazi is a dual Iranian-US national.
The US has accused Iran of taking Namazi and other imprisoned foreign nationals in Iran “hostage.”
Addressing Biden directly, he said: “I implore you, sir, to put the lives and liberty of innocent Americans above all the politics involved and to just do what’s necessary to end this nightmare and bring us home.”
Namazi is one of three American citizens detained in Tehran’s Evin prison, which is known for its long record of human rights abuses, and is seen as an emblem of authoritarian rule in Iran.
The two other American-Iranian prisoners in Evin prison are Emad Sharghi, a businessman, and Morad Tahbaz, a 66-year-old environmentalist. Both were first arrested in 2018.
Last June, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Namazi blasting Biden’s bid to rescue US prisoners in Iran as having “failed spectacularly.” He held a seven-day hunger strike this January, and wrote an open letter to Biden calling on him to deliver on a promise to bring them home.
In the CNN interview on Thursday, Namazi accused the former US administration of President Barack Obama of “abandoning” him in 2016 negotiations, when the administration secured the release of four other US prisoners held in Iran – including the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian – after signing the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal.