Working for the release of an innocent constituent in Iran
This is Jason Rezaian.
You may have read about Jason, an acclaimed journalist for the Washington Post who has been unjustly jailed in Iran for the past year. You may not know that Jason is from Marin County and a fellow constituent of California’s 2nd Congressional District.
Jason committed no crime. He has been imprisoned in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison for more than a year, often in solitary confinement and subject to cruel interrogations, simply because the Iranian regime is deeply suspicious of journalists, especially if they are American. His reporting was not political and did not criticize the regime. Indeed, his last article, published in the Washington Post on July 17, 2014, was about Iran’s love for baseball. It reflected warmly and positively on the people of Iran – the kind of coverage you would think Iranian leaders would want Americans to read. But five days later, Jason was arrested by Iranian authorities and thus began his brutal odyssey through the secretive and nebulous Iranian legal system.
Iran has never publicly disclosed the charges against Jason, who was born and raised in Marin but also holds Iranian citizenship. It is only through his lawyer that we know that those charges include espionage and “propaganda against the establishment.”
Jason’s imprisonment and trial violate both international and Iranian law. Iran’s own laws prevent any person from being detained for more than a year unless he or she is charged with murder. According to press reports, he has been subjected to repeated cruel interrogations, held for weeks in solitary confinement, and suffered psychological abuse at the hands of his captors.
I have worked with Jason’s family during this terrible ordeal. They have been barred from the courtroom, they are concerned about his physical welfare, and they are understandably anxious about the unlawful trial and detention.
For the past year, I have joined with his family in calling on Iran to release Jason, as have President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, the Washington Post, and international human rights organizations. While Iran has not responded to our efforts, Secretary Kerry assures me that he and the administration continue to press the issue in every meeting with Iranian leaders.
I agree with the Obama administration’s strategy of demanding Jason’s release on its own merits, not as a part of the recently negotiated nuclear agreement with Iran. Jason must be released because he is innocent, not as part of a deal on Iran’s nuclear program. But releasing Jason — along with several other innocent, unjustly imprisoned Americans in Iran— is a very important action the Iranian regime can take to demonstrate to Congress and the world community that it takes the rule of law seriously and is committed to a new era of trust and goodwill.
We are now hearing that a final decision in Jason’s trial may come soon. The Islamic Republic of Iran must know that the world is watching. It is time for them to end Jason’s unlawful imprisonment and release him without further delay. Rest assured that I will continue pressing for this outcome in every way possible – publicly, privately, and through diplomatic channels.
Congressman Jared Huffman