Photo courtesy of Sarreshteh Family
CHANTILLY, Va. (WUSA) - Daughter Sepideh Sarreshteh says if it wasn't for the way customs officials treated her 73-year-old dad here last month, he might still be alive today.
She said, "He was a loving dad and I'm really miss him, and I'm not going to forget what they did to my dad."
It was supposed to be a reunion for Daryoush Sarreshteh and his daughter. The family hadn't been together for three years. Sarreshteh traveled from Iran. The plane landed from at Dulles Airport around 6:30 on Nov. 6, election night. Hours passed.
Sepideh got worried. She spoke to Customs and says she was told, "'You might go home, we might keep him the whole night,' and adds that Customs agents were " hanging up and they were so rude."
The 73-year-old former mayor of several cities in his home country had a green card. His wife Sima is a U.S. citizen. Daryoush did have to answer some questions about why he'd been away from the U.S. for so long. Sepideh says he was required to make one visit to the U.S. every six months, but a surgery, and some family differences kept him away. Customs detained him and his wife fors sux hours.
Sepideh says the two were mistreated. " I find out they didn't even give a glass of water to them, and they kept my citizen mom for the whole time. He was in tears, he was pale, crying, he talked like they're were going to take him to jail,"she said.
Sepideh says that stress stayed with him. Two days later, the man she says was healthy died of an apparent heart attack. "My mom, she went downstairs, we hear the water is running, and she opened the bathroom, he was just laying there,"Sepideh said.
Customs and Border Protection issued this statement to 9News: "Customs and Border Protection empathizes with the grief this family is feeling toward the untimely loss of Mr. Sarreshteh. We wish to assure them that Mr. Sarreshteh's admissibility review was of a routine nature, and that CBP strives to treat all travelers with respect and in a professional manner."
Demetry Pikrallidas is the family's attorney. "They've previously determined to be OK to come into our country, consequently, you afford them the respect that you afford any American,"Pikrallidas said.
The family believes perhaps Sarreshteh may have had a blood clot, and that the stress of the interrogation exacerbated it, causing the heart attack, but they say they still need the final autopsy results.