Iran gives Iranian-US businessman and father 10 years for spying

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Iranian-US businessman and father given 10-year sentences in Iran

Tehran (AFP) - An Iranian-American businessman, his 80-year-old father and four others have each been given 10 years in prison for espionage, Tehran's prosecutor said Tuesday.

"Baquer and Siamak Namazi, Farhad Abd-Saleh, Kamran Ghaderi, Nezar Zaka and Alireza Omidvar have been sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage and collaboration with the American government," said prosecutor-general Abbas Jafari Dolat-Abadi, according to the Fars news agency.

Siamak Namazi, a well-connected business consultant who has supported reformist politicians in Iran, was arrested as he arrived in Tehran a year ago.

His father, Baquer, was detained in February when he came to Iran to seek his son's release.

He is a former UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) employee and served as a governor of the Iranian province of Khuzestan before the Islamic revolution of 1979.

UNICEF issued a statement last month saying it was "deeply concerned about his health and well-being".

Zaka is a Lebanese-American who was arrested in November 2015 and accused on state television of "numerous deep links to the US military intelligence community".

The hardline Kayhan newspaper has described Omidvar as an "associate" of Namazi.

- Hardliners criticise Namazis -

Conservative media have criticised Siamak Namazi's links to the National Iranian American Council, a Washington-based NGO created by Iranian nationals aimed at boosting ties between the two countries.

At the time of his arrest last year, he was working for Crescent Petroleum, an energy firm based in the United Arab Emirates, which is involved in an ongoing legal dispute with Iran over a failed gas deal, and is seeking billions of dollars in compensation.

Video footage of Namazi's arrest was published by Mizan, which is linked to the judiciary, earlier this week.

It was presented with dramatic music alongside images of his US passport and shots of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian who spent two years in prison on espionage charges.

Mizan published a long article in February, criticising the Namazi family's efforts to "influence internal events in Iran" through its financial contributions to NGOs.

It also criticised their role in promoting ties between Iranian and Western businesses during the rule of reformist president Mohammad Khatami.

Rezaian was released in January at the same time as a nuclear accord with world powers came into force, lifting sanctions on Iran.

Washington helped to airlift $400 million worth of Swiss francs and euros to Iran shortly afterwards -- part of the money owed by the US because it cancelled defence sales at the time of the revolution.

The White House has denied accusations from hardline critics that this amounted to a hostage ransom for Rezaian and four others released at the same time.