April 19, 2024

YONKERS – Siamak Namazi, the longest held of the American prisoners released by Iran in a prisoner exchange, is on his way to Qatar and then to Washington, D.C., his uncle said Monday.

“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.”

US citizens Siamak Namazi (back), Emad Sharqi (L) and Morad Tahbaz (C) disembark from a Qatari jet upon their arrival at the Doha International Airport in Doha on September 18, 2023. Five US detainees, three previously identified as Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz and Emad Sharqi and two who wish to remain anonymous, released by Iran landed in Doha in a prisoner swap on September 18 after $6 billion in frozen funds were transferred to Iranian accounts in Qatar. (Photo by Karim JAAFAR / AFP) (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images)

US citizens Siamak Namazi (back), Emad Sharqi (L) and Morad Tahbaz (C) disembark from a Qatari jet upon their arrival at the Doha International Airport in Doha on September 18, 2023. Five US detainees, three previously identified as Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz and Emad Sharqi and two who wish to remain anonymous, released by Iran landed in Doha in a prisoner swap on September 18 after $6 billion in frozen funds were transferred to Iranian accounts in Qatar. (Photo by Karim JAAFAR / AFP) (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

Nazanin Boniadi, left, actress and activist, Sarah Moriarty, the daughter of Robert Levinson, a U.S. hostage in Iran, Babak Namazi, the brother of Siamak Namazi and son of Baquer Namazi, who are both being held hostage in Iran, and Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a U.K. hostage in Iran, speak about their family members who are being held hostage in Iran, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019, during a news conference in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Nazanin Boniadi, left, actress and activist, Sarah Moriarty, the daughter of Robert Levinson, a U.S. hostage in Iran, Babak Namazi, the brother of Siamak Namazi and son of Baquer Namazi, who are both being held hostage in Iran, and Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a U.K. hostage in Iran, speak about their family members who are being held hostage in Iran, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019, during a news conference in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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 pkramer@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: American hostage freed by Iran has roots in NY, Westchester County

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