Oct. 5 (UPI) — Baquer Namazi, an American citizen who has been held captive by the Iranian regime for more than six years, was released Wednesday, U.S. officials said.
The 85-year-old former UNICEF official was arrested in Tehran on Feb. 22, 2016, after arriving in the country to visit his son, Siamak Namazi, a Dubai-based businessman who was detained by Iran in 2015.
The two were sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges the United States has called “baseless.”
Despite Baquer Namazi’s sentence having been commuted in 2020, the Iranian regime has refused to grant him leave of the country — that was until U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced Saturday that Tehran had lifted the travel ban placed upon him to allow the octogenarian to receive urgent medical treatment.
Siamak Namazi, 50, was also granted a weeklong humanitarian furlough to be with his father.
Baquer Namazi’s lawyer, Jared Genser, confirmed his client’s departure from Iran, tweeting a picture of the man aboard a plane taxing before take off on a Tehran tarmac.
The plane then flew Baquer Namazi to Muscat, Oman, where he boarded another plane for Abu Dhabi. Genser said that upon arrival in the United Arab Emirates, Baquer Namazi was transported straight to the Cleveland Clinic for “urgent medical treatment.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed in a statement that Baquer Namazi had arrived in Abu Dhabi where he was reunited with his family.
“Baquer has asked that we convey his deepest thanks to all of those who worked so tirelessly to secure his release,” Blinken said. “We look forward to his full recovery and to welcoming home to the United States.”
Baquer Namazi’s release comes as Iran confronts mass anti-regime protests at home following the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman while under the custody of the country’s so-called morality police known as Guidance Patrol.
The protests have been met with a bloody crackdown, which have resulted in the deaths of at least 154 people, according to Iran Human Rights.
While the United States has responded with sanctions and threats of further punitive actions, Iran has blamed the United States and its allies for enflaming the internal conflict.