A Dubai-based businessman has become the fourth Iranian-American to be arrested by Iran's security forces and imprisoned in Tehran, according to media reports late Thursday.
Siamak Namazi was detained by Iranian authorities in mid-October, according to a source speaking to the Associated Press. He had been traveling in Iran, where his parents live, to visit family and was barred from leaving the country in July, the source said.
Namazi was detained by the intelligence service of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and is currently being held in solitary confinement in Evin prison, a source told Reuters. Namazi had been regularly called in for interrogation between July and the time he was detained, the source also disclosed.
The U.S. State Department declined to confirm Namazi's arrest.
"We're aware of recent reports of the possible arrest in Iran of a U.S. citizen. We're looking into these reports and don't have anything further to provide at this time," Michael Tran, a State Department spokesman, said late Thursday.
Namazi, the son of a former governor in the oil-rich Iranian province of Khuzestan, comes from a prominent Iranian family, which came to the United States in 1983 when he was a boy, according to The Washington Post.
The Washington-based National Iranian American Council said it was troubled by reports of Namazi's arrest and denied suggestions that his family had a leadership role in the organization, through it acknowledged "Namazi has known members of NIAC's staff."
"NIAC is very concerned by the continued detention of multiple Iranian Americans by the Iranian government, and is deeply troubled by the reports that Mr. Namazi may also have been detained," it said.
The arrest of an unnamed Iranian American businessman was first reported by IranWire, an online publication, on Oct. 15.
Namazi lives in Dubai and works as the head of strategic planning for Crescent Petroleum, an oil and gas company in the United Arab Emirates. He previously was chief executive of Atieh Bahar Consulting, a private marketing and strategic consulting firm in Iran.
Namazi, well known among Iran policy experts, attended university in the United States and the United Kingdom and previously worked at think tanks and institutions in Washington, D.C. In 2007, he was chosen as a "Young Global Leader" by the World Economic Forum.
Namazi's career has revolved to a great extent around the changing business and diplomatic ties between the United States and Iran. In 2013, he wrote an editorial in the New York Times criticizing U.S. and European sanctions for blocking the import of critical medicines into Iran.
His arrest makes him the fourth Iranian-American currently detained in Iran. An reporter for the Washington Post, Jason Rezaian, was convicted this month after being arrested in July 2014 and accused of espionage. Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine, was jailed by Iran on spying charges in 2011. And Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American Christian pastor, was sentenced to eight years in jail in 2013.
The detentions have been an obstacle to thawing U.S.-Iran relations, which improved during the negotiation of a historic July nuclear deal. Iran agreed with world powers to limit its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions.
The Wall Street Journal, which earlier reported the news of Namazi's arrest, said that in recent weeks Iranian business officials with ties to foreign companies had been held, interrogated and warned against wading into economic monopolies controlled by the Revolutionary Guard.
Friends of Namazi told the Journal that Iranian intelligence agents had ransacked his family home, seized his computer and then conducted cyber attacks on some of his email contacts.
Earlier this month, Secretary of State John Kerry defended the U.S. decision not to make the release of Iranian-Americans a condition for the nuclear agreement with Iran, but he called on Iran to release the men and drop all charges against them.
Namazi's arrest suggests that hard-liners in Iran could be trying to create tension with the United States in the wake of Iran's nuclear deal with world powers. That agreement reached earlier this year promises Iran relief from crippling economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
Iranian hard-liners are opposed to moderate President Hassan Rouhani's strategy of attempting to improve ties with the West. Internal domestic struggles over the direction of Iran appear to be intensifying ahead of February's parliamentary elections.
Al Jazeera and wire services
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