An American-Iranian man was among a group of environmentalists detained in Iran last month during efforts to foil a protest, bringing the number of US citizens held in the country to at least five, family members and human rights groups say. Morad Tahbaz of the Persian Heritage Wildlife Association—which protects at-risk animals, per Reuters—was taken to Evin Prison in late January at the same time as Canadian-Iranian Kavous Seyed Emami, who died there, reports the Wall Street Journal. Iranian officials say 63-year-old Seyed Emami hanged himself, though family members are doubtful. This and the continued detention of 81-year-old American-Iranian Baquer Namazi—against the advice of Iran's medical examiner and following two hospitalizations in two weeks—raises fears for Tahbaz as the US State Department works to confirm his arrest.
While the department calls "for the immediate release of all US citizens unjustly detained" in the country, Iran has refused to release Namazi on humanitarian grounds, even as his family claims "he could die at any time," per ABC News. Namazi was detained in 2016 while trying to procure the release of his son, 46-year-old Siamak Namazi, also a US citizen, per the Journal. Both were convicted of spying for the US, as was Xiyue Wang. Another American, Karan Vafadari, was sentenced in January to 27 years in prison. Tahbaz's detention puts increased pressure on the Trump administration, which has been unsuccessful at establishing a direct channel with Iran to negotiate prisoner releases. US officials have tried four times since December but received no response, reports the Journal. An Iranian official says the US "cannot threaten and attack Iran and then also reach out or ask for negotiations." (Read more Iran stories.)