Muhammad Ali’s Widow Calls on Iran to Free Imprisoned Iranian-American Son and Father
Lonnie Ali says her husband promoted “good will and understanding between the people of Iran and the United States.”
The widow of American boxing legend Muhammad Ali has called on Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, to free Iranian-Americans Siamak Namazi and his father Bagher Namazi.
“I would like to request that your Excellency show Islamic mercy towards these two individuals who are pure-hearted citizens of our world, and allow these Muslims to be reunited with their family in this holy month (Muharram, marking the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala on the first month of the Islamic calendar),” wrote Lonnie Ali in a letter to Khamenei. A copy of the letter, which was undated, was sent to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on October 13, 2016.
“My husband, Muhammad Ali, loved Iran and the Iranian people. It would be a blessing for many to honor the memory of Muhammad with mercy toward these two men,” she wrote. “Muhammad was a champion of Islam for all Muslims. For the world to know that his voice and influence still matters would show that Islam is truly a religion of peace and mercy. I pray that we can follow in his footsteps to promote good will and understanding between the people of Iran and the United States.”
Siamak Namazi, a business consultant with dual U.S. and Iranian citizenship, has been imprisoned in Evin Prison in Tehran since October 15, 2015 without due process. His 80-year-old father, Bagher Namazi, a former UN official who also holds dual citizenship, has also been held at Evin Prison since February 22, 2016; he reportedly travelled to Iran to attempt to visit his son.
The Namazis appeared in Revolutionary Court last week in a trial presided by Judge Abolqasem Salavati, according to a report by Radio Fardo published on October 14, 2016, but no details were provided about the proceedings or the outcome.
Siamak Namazi, 45, headed the strategic planning division for Crescent Petroleum, an oil and gas company based in the United Arab Emirates.
Their mutual lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaee, told the Campaign on February 22, 2016 that they were accused of “collaborating with enemy states,” but the Iranian authorities have not revealed the charges.
Conservative hardliners have defended the arrests. The hardline daily Vatan Emrooz described Namazi’s arrest as the “masterful” catch of a “corrupt and influential traitor” by the security establishment while claiming that the “Namazi family is without the slightest doubt promoters of liberalism, bureaucratic corruption… and capitalism.”
The Tasnim News Agency, a mouthpiece of for the Revolutionary Guards, accused Namazi on Jan 27, 2016 of heading a “political, economic and cultural mafia gang” with ties to the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a Washington-based advocacy group for Iranian-Americans.
Siamak Namazi’s friends and family have passionately appealed for his release, citing a poorly sourced and anonymously written article published by the Daily Beast website as the reason why Namazi was picked up by Iran’s intelligence forces.
Several dual national Iranians have been arrested in Iran in the past two years including Iranian-Canadian Homa Hoodfar, British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Iranian-American Robin (Reza) Shahini. With the exception of Hoodfar, who was released in October 2016, all of them are still being held in Iran without due process.
The growing number of arrests reflects hardliners’ efforts to prevent the engagement with the West that the administration of President Hassan Rouhani has sought to encourage.