Three decades after the conclusion of the Iran Hostage Crisis, Iran continues to take Americans hostages.
Today, four Americans—Jason Rezaian, Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and Robert Levinson—are being held in Iran on trumped-up charges. Like American hostages before them, the prisoners have been subject to forced confessions, extended solitary confinement, beatings, and psychological pressure.
Longest Held Western Journalist in Iran
Pastor Imprisoned For His Faith
Former Marine Detained on Bogus Espionage Charges
Longest Held Hostage in American History
|Imprisoned Since||July 22, 2014|
|Born||March 15, 1976 (age 39)|
|Raised In||San Rafael, California|
Jason Rezaian, The Washington Post correspondent in Iran, has been detained in the country since the summer of 2014. On July 22, 2014, Iranian security forces raided the home of Rezaian and his wife Yeganeh Salehi, seized laptops and documents and detained the couple. While Salehi, an Iranian national, was released in October 2014, Rezaian remained in custody on unspecified charges.
The Iranian judiciary denied Rezaian bail and prohibited him from speaking with an attorney for nearly 9 months. Additionally, the Iranian government refused to release any information on Rezaian’s welfare, and denied the State Department’s requests for consular access through the Swiss embassy.
Rezaian’s case was assigned to Judge Abolghassem Salavati, an infamous “hanging judge” known for imposing harsh punishments including long prison sentences, lashings, and executions. In April 2015, it was revealed that Rezaian was being charged with four crimes, including espionage, “collaborating with hostile governments,” and “propaganda against the establishment.” His trial began on May 26, 2015, but was closed to the public.
Rezaian has been kept in in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, most of the time in solitary confinement. According to his brother, Rezaian has been forced to sleep on the concrete floor of his cell, and his physical and mental health has deteriorated. Rezaian suffers from recurring eye infections, groin inflammation, and high blood pressure; family members worry “stress and a lack of access to medicine could aggravate his condition.” Rezaian is now considered to be the longest held Western journalist in Iran.
|Imprisoned Since||July 18, 2012|
|Charges||Undermining national security|
|Sentence||8 years in jail|
|Location||Rajai Shahr Prison|
|Born||May 7, 1980 (age 35)|
|U.S. Residence||Boise, Idaho|
Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor, Muslim convert to Christianity, and dual citizen of Iran and the U.S., has been detained in Iran since the summer of 2012. Members of the IRGC pulled Abedini off of a bus on July 28, 2012 while he was in Iran visiting family and building an orphanage. After intense interrogations, Abedini was placed under house arrest. On September 26, 2012, while awaiting trial, Abedini was abducted from his family’s home in Tehran by five Revolutionary Guards and taken to Evin prison.
In January 2013, Abedini was sentenced to eight years in prison for “undermining national security by working to establish home-based Christian churches in Iran from 2000 to 2005.” Abedini has been incarcerated in two of Iran’s most brutal prisons—Evin and Rajai Shahr—where he “[has faced] daily threats and abuse because he refuses to deny his Christian faith.”
While in captivity, Abedini has been subjected to “repeated beatings, malnourishment, and lack of proper medical treatment.” Upon visiting his son at Rajai Shahr Prison in December 2013, the pastor’s father reported that Abedini had “visibly lost weight, he is covered from head to toe with lice because of lack of basic hygiene and he has been refused medicine for internal injuries he suffered at the beginning of his incarceration.” As of February 2015, Abedini is still being held in Rajai Shahr Prison.
|Imprisoned Since||August 29, 2011|
|Sentence||10 years in jail|
|Born||July 27, 1983 (age 31)|
|U.S. Residence||Flint, Michigan|
In August 2011, Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. marine that served in Iraq and an Iranian-American dual citizen, was arrested while on his first trip to Iran to see his aging grandmothers. On August 29, 2011, Iranian authorities abducted Hekmati while preparing to go to a Ramadan feast with family. Following his abduction, Hekmati was incarcerated in Evin Prison “with no explanation to his family.”
In January 2012, “Iran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced him to death and aired a televised confession in which he claimed to be a spy for the CIA.” However, “after international outcry, in March 2012 Iran’s Supreme Court overturned his death sentence and ordered a retrial.” In a letter he wrote that was smuggled out of his jail and published in September 2013, Hekmati said, “This is part of a propaganda and hostage-taking effort by Iranian intelligence to secure the release of Iranians abroad being held on security-related charges.” In April 2014, The New York Times reported that Hekmati “was secretly retried by a revolutionary court in December , convicted of ‘practical collaboration with the American government’ and given a 10-year prison term.”
In a letter written to the Iranian ministers of justice and intelligence, Hekmati protested the prison’s cold cells, frequent power blackouts, and vermin. That same month, Hekmati suspended a hunger strike after Evin Prison officials promised that they “would take steps to have his case revisited by Iranian authorities.” While Hekmati suffers from untreated lung infections, and is plagued by ticks and lice on a daily basis, he has vowed to resume his hunger strike if “real action is not taken on his case with real results.”
In March 2015, Hekmati renounced his Iranian citizenship and vowed that he would never return to Iran if he were released. In a statement to his mother, Hekmati also reported being tasered during interrogations, whipped on his feet with cables, and being force-fed drugs such as lithium. Prison officials also subjected Hekmati to sleep deprivation and psychological torture.
Following the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in April, prison guards taunted Hekmati by telling him that President Obama did not mention his name at all during the event. Hekmati’s sister Sarah said that he is being made to feel “that the country he put his life on the line for, the one he defended, and the president he voted for has left him behind and are not actively trying to secure his freedom.” In late April, Sarah met with members of Congress and White House officials to discuss her brother’s release.
|Imprisoned Since||March 9, 2007|
|Born||March 10, 1948 (age 67)|
|U.S. Residence||Coral Springs, Florida|
American private investigator and retired FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared on March 9, 2007 on Iran’s Kish Island, while reportedly on an unauthorized CIA mission to investigate corruption. He has “not been publicly seen or heard from since.” In late 2010 and early 2011, Levinson’s family received a hostage video and photographs of him, in which he appears gaunt, emaciated and heavily bearded. Levinson’s family has not received any other information from his captors.
In December 2013, Iran-based American fugitive Dawud Salahuddin disclosed that he witnessed Iranian agents detaining Levinson at the time of his disappearance. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif recently “denied all knowledge of Levinson’s whereabouts,” yet there is “consensus” among U.S. officials that the Iranian government is responsible for Levinson’s abduction and captivity. Levinson suffers from gout, hypertension, and diabetes. Levinson is now considered to be the longest-held hostage in American history.