FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 14, 2015
Phone: (212) 922-0063
UANI Statement and Fact Sheet on Four American Hostages Left Behind in Iran Despite Deal
First Ad of Renewed UANI Campaign Highlights American Hostages' Plight
On Tuesday, August 11, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) resumed its multi-million-dollar campaign to educate Americans on the Iran nuclear agreement's defects with an ad entitled "Leave No Man Behind." The ad focuses on one of the most glaring flaws in the deal--the continued captivity in Iran of four U.S. hostages:
- Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian (1+ year / 389 days in prison)
- Pastor Saeed Abedini (3+ years / 1,123 days in prison)
- Marine veteran Amir Hekmati (3+ years / 1,447 days in prison)
- Former FBI agent Robert Levinson (8+ years / 3,081 days missing)
"Even if the agreement was successful in establishing a permanent and verifiable check on Iranian nuclear ambitions the failure to secure the release of American hostages held in Iran is unacceptable," said UANI CEO Mark D. Wallace, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and UANI Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman, former U.S. senator from Connecticut. "The American people should consider whether any potential limited and short-term benefits are worth the heavy costs of this agreement--including leaving four Americans behind in Iran."
Three of the four American hostages are imprisoned by the Iranian regime on trumped-up charges. All four reportedly have been subjected to physical and psychological torture, including forced confessions, extended solitary confinement, and beatings.
Please learn more about the unjust, inhumane captivity of these four Americans below:
Jason Rezaian (age 39), The Washington Post bureau chief in Tehran, 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. If convicted, "Rezaian reportedly faces up to 20 years in prison."
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 the longest held Western journalist in Iran.
Saeed Abedini (age 35), 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. IRGC members 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.
Amir Hekmati (age 32), a former U.S. marine who served in Iraq and an Iranian-American dual citizen, was arrested in August 2011 while on his first trip to Iran to see his aging grandmothers. On August 29, 2011, Iranian authorities abducted Hekmati while he was 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.
Prison guards taunted Hekmati following the White House Correspondents' Dinner in April by telling him President Obama did not mention his name during the event. Hekmati's sister Sarah said 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.
Robert Levinson (age 67), American private investigator and retired FBI agent, disappeared on March 9, 2007 on Iran's Kish Island, reportedly while 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.
Recent press coverage of the four American hostages in Iran:
- "Families of Americans Held in Iran: Don't Forget About Us," ABC News, July 14, 2015.
- "Iranian Nuclear Deal: What Does It Mean for Americans Held in Iran?", CNN, July 15, 2015.
- "Obama Questioned by CBS News' Major Garrett on Iran Hostages," CBS News, July 15, 2015.
- "Wife of Hostage in Iran No Fan of Nuke Deal," Boston Herald, July 15, 2015.
- "Texan Who Was Hostage in Iran Criticizes Nuclear Pact," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 16, 2015.
- "Brother of U.S. Reporter Held Captive in Iran Pleads for His Release One Year Later," New York Daily News, July 22, 2015.
- "Pressure Grows to Free Americans in Iran," Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2015.
- "Kerry on U.S. Prisoners in Iran: We Didn't Want to Be 'Hostage to This Agreement,'" CBS News, August 11, 2015.
- "U.N. human rights experts call for 'immediate release' of Post's Jason Rezaian," Washington Post, August 14, 2015.
Recent opinion pieces on the four American hostages in Iran:
- Dana Milbank, "Obama's News Conference Was a Case for American Weakness," Washington Post, July 15, 2015.
- Jennifer Rubin, "The Only Reason Obama Lost His Cool in the Iran News Conference," Washington Post, July 16, 2015.
- Mortimer B. Zuckerman, "Say No to This Appeasement," U.S. News & World Report, July 24, 2015.