YONKERS – Monday was a long-awaited day for the Namazi family, as Siamak Namazi, the longest held of the American prisoners in Iran, was released in a prisoner exchange. By late morning in the U.S., he had landed in Qatar for a prisoner exchange and was then expected to fly to Washington, D.C., his uncle said.
“We have been waiting for this for so long,” said Hushang Namazi, who lives in Yonkers. “I can’t believe it’s finally happened because, as you know, he was the longest American hostage held in Iran, nearly 8 years, since 2015. Finally, finally, after all these years.”
Siamak Namazi, 52, lived in Westchester for a time and was a 1989 graduate of White Plains High School.
Namazi, along with Emad Sharghi, Morad Tahbaz and two other unidentified Americans, had been jailed by Iran on spying charges. Iran agreed to release them from prison while a $6 billion transfer of frozen Iranian oil funds was arranged. The deal also included the dismissing of U.S. charges against five Iranians accused of skirting American sanctions.
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How will the exchange for Namazi work?
His uncle said Namazi was on a morning flight from Tehran to Qatar, where he and four other Americans will be exchanged for five Iranians who have been held by the U.S., in a ceremony likely to be reminiscent of Cold War prisoner exchanges between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
Namazi’s mother, Effie, had been in Tehran in recent weeks as the release was worked out. She is on the flight with Namazi, her brother-in-law said.
“They’re flying to Qatar for the formal prisoner exchange and then they’re going to fly to Washington,” Hushang Namazi said Monday morning. “That’s where Siamak’s brother, Babak, and my brother, Baquer, will be waiting to see their brother and wife and son.”
Uncle: Namazi’s father was held in same prison, then released
The father-and-son reunion in Washington is likely to be emotional. When Baquer Namazi went to Iran years ago to seek his son’s release, he was arrested and was held in the same Iranian prison, his brother said.
“My brother was living in Dubai,” Hushang Namazi explained. “The Iranian prison authorities that arrested Siamak had held him for some time. They informed my brother, ‘You can come to Tehran to visit him.’ When he went to Tehran, at the airport, they arrested him and kept him there for two years.”
“For two years they were held in the same prison, but they weren’t allowed to see each other,” he said.
The elder Namazi was released on humanitarian grounds, due to health concerns, his brother said.
“After he was released from Iran, he went to London to be with my sister for a little while. He came and stayed with me in Yonkers for two months. Then he went to Toronto to stay with my older brother and sister. Then yesterday, he flew to Washington knowing the release is going to take place.”
Hushang Namazi said it’s unlikely his nephew will be coming to Westchester after his return to the U.S.
“They’ll be in Washington for two weeks, at least,” he said. “They have time to plan what they’ll do next.”
Reach Peter D. Kramer at email@example.com.