A Washington Post reporter went on closed-door trial today in Iran on charges of espionage as it was announced that, for the first time, all families of the U.S. hostages held in the Islamic Republic will come before Congress on the same panel.
Jason Rezaian, who has reported from Tehran since 2008, was seized on July 22, 2014, in a raid on his home. His wife, Yeganeh Salehi, a reporter for UAE English-language newspaper The National, was also detained and released in October. She will be tried separately.
Jason’s brother, Ali, will speak for his family at the June 2 hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Both are California natives with an Iranian-born father.
Also on the panel will be Sarah Hekmati, sister of U.S. Marine vet Amir Hekmati, an Arizona native who was seized while visiting extended family for the first time in August 2011.
Nagameh Abedini, who has previously testified before Congress on threats to religious freedom, will speak on behalf of her husband, Idaho pastor Saeed Abedini. He was convicted in January 2013 of establishing Christian house churches while in the country to set up a government-sanctioned orphanage.
Daniel Levinson will testify on behalf of his father, Bob Levinson. The former FBI agent went missing off the coast of Iran eight years ago while working as a private investigator. Levinson’s family later received images of him in captivity, though the Iranian government has maintained they don’t know who is holding him.
After hearing from the families, the committee will mark up up a resolution calling for the immediate release of the Americans held by Iran. It was introduced by Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who is Hekmati’s congressman, and sponsored by Reps. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who represents Rezaian’s district, Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), who represents Abedini, and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), representing Levinson’s district. The bill is now up to 145 co-sponsors.
Last month, PJ Media asked representatives of relevant House and Senate committees if they were considering bringing the families together for a hearing as the administration negotiates a final nuclear agreement with Iran. One Foreign Affairs aide said they could “definitely try” to host the families at an upcoming hearing, while Senate staffers said there were no hearing plans in the works in the upper chamber.
The timing couldn’t be more critical as Rezaian faces a judge so renowned for harsh sentences that he was sanctioned by the European Union in 2011 for human rights abuses.
“In charge of the post-election cases, he was the Judge presiding the ‘show trials’ in summer 2009, he condemned to death two monarchists that appeared in the show trials. He has sentenced more than a hundred political prisoners, human rights activists and demonstrators to lengthy prison sentences,” says the description of Abdolghassem Salavati on the EU blacklist.