The U.S. State Department says it is looking into reports that an Iranian-American businessman has been detained by Iranian security forces, after The Wall Street Journal reported that Dubai-based Siamak Namazi was arrested at a Tehran airport.
Citing a family friend of Namazi’s, The Washington Post reports that Namazi had been arrested earlier this month and that it’s not clear what charges he might face.
News of Namazi’s detention comes as Iran takes part in international talks on Syria, with foreign ministers of the U.S. and other countries meeting today in Vienna.
The Journal says that with economic sanctions poised to ease with the recent nuclear deal between Iran, the U.S., and other countries, Namazi’s arrest is another sign “that hard-liners in Tehran are trying to block investors from entering the Islamic Republic.”
Namazi works for Crescent Petroleum Co., which is based in the United Arab Emirates. According to the Iran Wire website, the arrest came along with a raid of Namazi’s family home in Tehran — and an attempt to infiltrate his network of online connections.
“Several Iranian-Americans and US-based Iranian experts reported that they received suspicious emails sent from the businessman’s account,” Iran Wire reports.
The site says that at least one Iranian-American scholar had his computer system hacked, after clicking on a link in an email from Namazi’s account.
Namazi holds degrees from Tufts and Rutgers universities. In the mid-1990s, he worked in Tehran as a duty officer with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning, before moving on to a career in consulting with companies that want to do business in Iran. That’s according to his bio at the Woodrow Wilson Center, where Namazi wrote several articles about Iran as a public policy scholar.
For more than a year, U.S. officials have been pressing Iran to release another Iranian-American: Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, whose current legal status is uncertain after he was accused of espionage and, Iranian state TV said, convicted at trial of unspecified charges.
Last month, the speaker of Iran’s Parliament hinted that a prisoner swap could possibly be arranged for Rezaian and three other Americans who have been held or missing in Iran for years.
“Definitely for matters of this sort, one can come up with solutions. I think your politicians know about those ways,” Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s Parliament, told NPR’s Steve Inskeep.