Jason Rezaian suffered ‘irreparable harm’ being subject to ‘torture and other cruel treatment’ during his detention in a Tehran prison, the lawsuit says
Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian suffered “irreparable harm” as the result of being subject to “torture and other cruel treatment” during his 18-month detention in a Tehran prison, according to a federal lawsuit against the Iranian government filed by the journalist and his family on Monday.
The suit, filed in US district court in Washington, alleges that Rezaian was targeted and imprisoned at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for the “unlawful purpose of extorting concessions from the US government” and other parties as the two countries engaged in multinational talks over curbing Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who was also detained at Evin for two months, were told on multiple occasions by Iranian security guards and interrogators that the reporter was “high value” and would be used as a “bargaining chip” in a prisoner exchange, according to the suit.
“For nearly 18 months, Iran held and terrorized Jason for the purpose of gaining negotiating leverage and ultimately exchanging him with the United States for something of value to Iran,” the suit alleges. “Plaintiffs seek justice and redress from this court in order to compensate plaintiffs for their pain and suffering and to hold Iran accountable for its heinous and unlawful acts of terrorism, torture, abuse, and hostage taking.” They also “threatened to maim and kill his wife Yeganeh”, the complaint said.
Rezaian, a dual Iranian-American citizen from California, was arrested at gunpoint in along with his wife in July 2014, after security forces raided their Tehran home. He was imprisoned and held under unproven and vague espionage-related charges. Rezaian was put on trial and, according to the complaint, convicted of espionage and other offenses in a “futile effort” by Iran to justify its imprisonment of the journalist.
Jason Rezaian waves to media as he stands with his wife and mother after being released. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
“In reality, Jason committed no crime and was never legitimately tried, convicted, or sentenced – even according to Iranian standards,” the complaint said.
The Iranian government has not released details of his conviction in the closed-door trial. Rezaian, his family and his employer have maintained that the charges are demonstrably false.
After 544 days in prison, Rezaian was released on 16 January 2016, along with three other American detainees as part of a complex prisoner exchange with Iran.
The lawsuit includes harrowing new details about Rezaian’s imprisonment. It claims Iranian officials subjected Rezaian to “prolonged solitary confinement, deprived him of sleep, aggressively and relentlessly interrogated him, denied him basic medical treatment for serious and painful illnesses and infections, and threatened him with dismemberment, execution, and other forms of cruel and unusual physical torture”.
The 18-month ordeal was so traumatic that Rezaian, his wife and his brother, Ali, all contemplated suicide, the suit said. Now nine months after Rezaian was freed and returned home, the journalist and his family are still reeling from the emotional and physiological scars caused by his detention.
Rezaian along with his brother, Ali, and their mother, Mary, who campaigned tirelessly for his release, are asking for an unspecified sum of damages under the “terrorism exception” to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The law typically does not allow Americans to sue foreign governments but it includes an exception for terrorism.