Those of us who watch Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show, Parts Unknown you may have seen the compelling episode about Iran. In the course of that episode, Bourdain interviewed a very charming couple. The man, Jason Rezaian is a Washington Post reporter and a dual citizen of both the US and Iran, and wife, Yeganeh Salehi, is an Iranian. Six weeks after the taping of the show, in July of 2014 both were imprisoned and charged with four crimes, three of the charges were never clarified and the fourth charge was espionage. Yegi was eventually released but Jason has remained imprisoned. In May of 2015, Rezaian appeared in the Tehran Revolutionary Court branch of Judge Abolghassem Salavati, known as “the judge of death” for tough sentences and a reputation that led the European Union to place him on a blacklist in 2011 for human rights abuses. The trial was closed to the public and only his local attorney was permitted in court. After court, Reza was returned to his cell in solitary confinement where he had very limited food and no medical care. Rezaian has a serous medical condition that was not treated during his capture and his health is in serious question.
It appears that Yegi is on the plane to leave Iran with her husband. The plane is expected to fly to Switzerland where Rezaian can receive medical care after his 18 months of solitary confinement.
Rezaian was treated as an Iranian citizen while detained as a journalist. There are currently 38 other Iranian journalists imprisoned in Iran. Rezain was the Tehran correspondent for the Washington Post at the time of his detention.
In addition to Rezaian, three other dual citizens (US/Iran) were released as part of the trade agreement reached through diplomatic channels. “Based on the recent decisions made by the national security council and also based on our ruling system’s national interests, four imprisoned dual nationals were released today,” said senior judiciary official Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi. Matthew Trevithchick an American student who was recently detained, was also released today but it was a separate event and not part of the ongoing negotiations.
The three other hostages include Pastor Saeed Abedini, 35, of Boise, Idaho, imprisoned since 2012 for Christian proselytizing; former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, of Flint, Michigan, who was jailed in 2011; and Nosratollah Khosravi. who I have little information on.
Sadly, it was expected that the fourth hostage to be released would be Robert A. Levinson, 67, a former FBI agent held since 2007. It would seem obvious to me that the US government would place the highest level of effort to have Levinson released since he is one of their own. It is solely my opinion that Levinson is likely dead. I hate to say that , but I can’t fathom any other reason that the US government did not REQUIRE his release along with the other four.
The US government released seven Iranian citizens (some reports indicate they too are dual citizens) who were charged with violating US sanctions against Iran. There were also 14 other Iranian citizens who had some sort of restrictions removed ( I believe related to future charges, it’s unclear.)
This is great news for the four families who will be reunited with their loved one. I hope that Rezaian’s medical issues are reversible and will update in comments with further information on his condition. There are also at least two other American citizens held in Iran who do not appear to be part of the prisoner swap. My heart goes out to the Levinson family who remains in the dark about the health and safety of their loved one and to the families of the remaining US citizens who remain in detention in Iran.