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U.S. citizen jailed in Iran, Siamak Namazi, ends hunger strike, urges Biden to recognize "desperate" situation

Family of American held in Iran urges Biden to do more
Family of Emad Shargi, American held in Iran, urges Biden to do more to secure release 10:03

Washington — A U.S.-Iranian dual national imprisoned in Tehran ended a seven-day hunger strike on Monday, saying he had lost 10 pounds but felt strengthened in his resolve to fight for the release of U.S. prisoners. Siamak Namazi, who has been detained since October 2015, said his strike marked the seventh anniversary of Washington's decision to exclude him from a prisoner release that saw five other Americans freed after the inking of a historic denuclearization deal with Iran.

An undated photo of Baquer Namazi and his son Siamak Namazi, both of whom were imprisoned in Iran before the elder Namazi was released late in 2022.  Family handout photo

Namazi had called on U.S. President Joe Biden to consider the plight of American prisoners in Iran for a minute each day — one "for each of the seven years of freedom" he has lost since the prisoner swap, according to a statement released by his lawyer on Monday.

"I went on hunger strike because I've learned the hard way that U.S. presidents tend to rely more on their political thermometer than their moral compass when deciding whether or not to enter a prisoner deal with Iran," he said.

"I denied myself food for an entire week so that maybe President Biden will recognize just how desperate the situation of the U.S. hostages here has become."

Neda Shargi: "America needs to bring my brother home" 05:26

According to his lawyer, Namazi lost about 10 pounds and his blood pressure spiked above normal levels during the hunger strike. He also struggled to stay warm, the statement said.

Namazi was blocked from leaving the country after a 2015 visit and sentenced to 10 years for collaborating with a foreign government, charges that he denies and that U.S. officials have called groundless.

After former President Donald Trump nixed the nuclear deal with Iran, the Biden administration had sought to restore it, while also insisting the pact could not go forward without the release of imprisoned Americans.

Iran expands uranium enrichment program 04:56

But, after painstaking negotiations, Biden has acknowledged that the deal is effectively dead.

The efforts were complicated by U.S. and Western outcry over Iran's violent crackdown on nationwide, anti-government protests and other human rights violations.

A National Security Council spokesperson told CBS News in a statement when he began his strike a week ago that the U.S. government remained "committed to securing the freedom of Siamak Namazi, and we are working tirelessly to bring him home along with all U.S. citizens who are wrongfully detained in Iran, including Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz."

"Iran's wrongful detention of U.S. citizens for use as political leverage is outrageous," the statement from the NSC spokesperson said. "Our priority is bringing all our wrongfully detained citizens home safely and as soon as possible and resolving the cases of missing and abducted U.S. citizens."

Namazi remains incarcerated in Iran's notorious Evin prison, along with Americans Shargi and Tahbaz. Mr. Shargi's family confirmed to CBS News in mid-January that the three Americans were located in the same prison ward, since a fire broke out at the prison last year as the country was engulfed by the nationwide protests which continue to this day.

U.S. permanent resident Shahab Dalili is also being detained in Iran. 

Siamak Namazi's father, Baquer Namazi, who was a United Nations official at the time, was detained in Iran shortly after the U.S. swap during an attempt to visit his detained son. Both Siamak and Baquer Namazi were subsequently left behind in two more prisoner exchanges that were carried out by the Trump administration. Iranian authorities finally allowed Baquer, now 86, to leave Iran last October for life-saving medical treatment in the United Arab Emirates.

Tehran generally refuses to acknowledge dual citizenship and earlier this month announced the execution of British-Iranian dual national Alireza Akbari, convicted of spying for the United Kingdom, a charge he denied.

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