Lawyer for American held in Iran alleges coronavirus detected in his prison ward

An attorney for Siamak Namazi urged Iranian authorities to release him on medical furlough to reduce the risk of further exposure to the virus.
Image: Prison guard stands along corridor in Tehran's Evin prison
A prison guard stands along a corridor in Tehran's Evin prison on June 13, 2006.Morteza Nikoubazl / Reuters file

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By Dan De Luce

The lawyer for an American held in Iran said on Monday that his client is at “serious risk” of contracting the coronavirus after another inmate held near his cell tested positive for the illness.

A detainee held in the same prison ward as Iranian-American Siamak Namazi was diagnosed with coronavirus and has been removed, Jared Genser, a U.S. lawyer working on behalf of Namazi, said in a statement.

Before prisoners in the ward were confined to their cells on Monday, the inmates were eating meals together, gathering in the prison library, exercise facilities and television room, raising the risk of spreading the virus, Genser said.

Iranian-American consultant Siamak Namazi in San Francisco in 2006.Ahmad Kiarostami / via Reuters file

Inmates who have asked to be tested for the coronavirus have been denied, he said. Evin prison also has rudimentary medical services and lacks basic medications for flu-like symptoms, according to Genser, who often speaks to Namazi by phone.

“To keep Siamak at Evin prison in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak and without access to testing or even basic medicines constitutes cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment in violation of Iran’s obligations under the Convention Against Torture,” Genser said.

Iranian authorities should arrange for Namazi’s release on medical furlough to reduce the risk of further exposure to the virus, Genser said.

Iran’s mission to the United States was not immediately available for comment. Iranian officials previously have denied any mistreatment of Namazi or other foreigners held in the country, and have defended their efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Namazi has been imprisoned in Iran for 1,602 days. He was arrested in October 2015 and later convicted along with his elderly father, Baquer, for “collaboration with a hostile government,” the United States. His family and human rights groups say the charges against Namazi and his father are without foundation. Iran rejects the claim.

Iran has been hit hard by the coronavirus, with senior officials coming under criticism that the authorities allegedly tried to play down the extent of the outbreak. The government said on Monday that 66 people have died from the illness out of 1,501 confirmed cases.

The husband of British-Iranian prisoner Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is also held in Evin prison, has accused the regime of refusing to test his wife for the coronavirus despite repeated requests.

The Free Nazanin Campaign in Britain issued a statement over the weekend from Zaghari-Ratcliffe, in which she said she felt feverish and had difficulty breathing.