Iran confirms it granted brief leave to ailing US citizen

TEHRAN — Iran's judiciary acknowledged Sunday that it has granted medical leave to an ailing 81-year-old Iranian-American convicted of espionage charges, one of a number of dual nationals swept up in detentions criticized by the United Nations.

However, a spokesman for Iran's judiciary sought to downplay any expectation Baquer Namazi would be put on an indefinite release following his recent surgery to install a pacemaker. Namazi, a former UNICEF representative who served as governor of Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province, was sentenced with his businessman son, Siamak, to 10 years to prison.

"Like many prisoners who can go on leave, he went on a three-day leave," spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi said in comments aired on state television. "When he was out of prison, they requested the leave to be extended for another three days."

"His leave must have come to an end yesterday or today," Ejehi added.

Jared Genser, a Washington-based lawyer for the Namazis, had been urging that the elder Namazi's release be extended.

"It is clear from the government's own doctors that returning him to prison would be tantamount to a death sentence," Genser said in a statement Thursday.

Genser said Sunday he believed Namazi would remain on leave until at least Monday. U.S. government officials also have called for their release.

The Namazis are among a number of dual nationals detained since Iran's nuclear deal with world powers. Analysts and family members of those detained have suggested that hardliners in Iran's security agencies use the prisoners as bargaining chips for money or influence. A UN panel in September described "an emerging pattern involving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of dual nationals" in Iran, which Tehran denies.

Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, so those detainees cannot receive consular assistance. In most cases, dual nationals have faced secret charges in closed-door hearings before Iran's Revolutionary Court, which handles cases involving alleged attempts to overthrow the government.

Meanwhile, Tehran's prosecutor-general says a court has sentenced a suspect to six years in prison for relaying information on the country's nuclear program to a US intelligence agent and a European country.

Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told the judiciary website — Mizanonline.ir — that the convict allegedly met the agent nine times and provided him with information about "nuclear affairs and sanctions."

Dolatabadi added that he provided the information to a European country too.

He said the court also ordered the confiscation of the money he received for the information.

The report did not identify the convict or provide additional details. — Agencies