Senate Calls on Iran to Free U.S. Hostages and on Trump to Prioritize Their Plights

WASHINGTON -- The Senate passed by unanimous consent this week a resolution calling on Iran to release American hostages and urging the Trump administration to make security the freedom of prisoners there "the highest of priorities."

The bipartisan measure suggests that the U.S. and allies who also have hostages held in Iran "consider establishing a multinational task force to work to secure the release of the detainees."

It calls on Trump "to take whatever steps are in the national interest to secure the release of Siamak Namazi, Baquer Namazi, Xiyue Wang, Nizar Zakka, and any other United States citizen, legal permanent resident alien, or foreign national being unjustly detained in Iran," and "to take whatever steps are in the national interest to determine the whereabouts and secure the return of Robert Levinson."

The resolution was introduced by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), and co-sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

“For years the Iranian regime has brutally detained and imprisoned Americans and dual-nationals as a matter of policy, in an effort to leverage the freedom of our citizens for political concessions,”  Cruz said Wednesday. “We have a moral imperative to speak for the silenced and shackled, to hold those responsible in Iran to account for detaining and mistreating our people, and to fight for the release and return of those held hostage by the Islamic Republic of Iran."

“There are few more egregious violations of human rights and human dignity than to wrongfully imprison innocent people under harsh conditions for purposes of extortion, which the Government of Iran engages in as a matter of state policy and practice,” Leahy added in a statement. “Baquer Namazi, 80 years old and in failing health, is one of several Iranian-Americans being cruelly abused in this manner. It is imperative that the administration uses its diplomatic tools to obtain their freedom.”

Baquer and Siamak Namazi

Siamak Namazi, a businessman who was raised in the United States and had been working out of Dubai, was arrested in October 2015 while visiting a friend in Tehran. Namazi hails from a prominent Iranian family; his father used to be governor in Khuzestan province and a UNICEF official, and the family immigrated to the U.S. in 1983. His father, Baquer Namazi, was arrested in Tehran in February 2016 and also taken to the city's notoriously brutal Evin prison.

In October 2016, the Namazis were sentenced to 10 years in prison "for spying and cooperating with the U.S. government against Iran."

Xiyue Wang is a Princeton University graduate student who was researching his dissertation in Iran and was sentenced to 10 years behind bars on charges of espionage this summer.