‘This is not the United States that we want. This is not what we believe in’: American-born anchor for Iranian state TV says the US jailed her for 10 days unnecessarily because of her beliefs and as a warning
- Marzieh Hashemi, 59, was arrested on January 13 and detained as a material witness in a federal investigation in Washington for 10 days
- She addressed the arrest publicly on Thursday, one day after her release
- Hashemi said it was unnecessary to detain her because she would have complied with a subpoena and appeared for questioning voluntarily
- While she was detained, Hashemi was forced to use a white T-shirt as a hijab
- Her religious dietary restrictions were also not honored while she was detained
- She said: ‘I’m not sure what the meaning of “Make America Great Again” is, but if it means just basically taking away human rights more and more every day, that doesn’t seem to be a very great America to me’
- Hashemi was unable to disclose details of the investigation because it is sealed
- She confirmed it doesn’t involve terrorism and was related to her job and the fact that she lives in Iran
A prominent American-born anchorwoman for Iranian state television says she believes the US government jailed her for 10 days because of her beliefs and her work as journalist – and to send a warning to ‘watch your step’.
Marzieh Hashemi was detained in Washington as a material witness in a federal investigation for 10 days, during which time she was forced to wear a white T-shirt on her head instead of a hijab and her religious dietary restrictions were not met.
One day after she was released from custody on Wednesday, Hashemi has spoken out about the experience that she sees as a violation of her human rights.
In a Thursday interview with the Associated Press, Hashemi condemned her arrest and detainment, saying they was unnecessary because she would have voluntarily complied with a federal subpoena and appeared for questioning.
‘I’m not sure what the meaning of “Make America Great Again” is, but if it means just basically taking away human rights more and more every day, that doesn’t seem to be a very great America to me,’ the 59-year-old said, referencing President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.
Iranian officials decried Hashemi’s detainment as part of what they called the ‘apartheid and racist policy’ of the Trump administration as members of the Muslim community took to the streets of Washington with signs that read: ‘Free Marzieh Hashemi’.
Hashemi said she was unable to disclose details of the investigation she’s a part of because it is sealed, but she confirmed that it did not involve terrorism and was related to her job and the fact that she lives in Iran.
The case comes at a time of heightened US-Iran tensions over President Trump’s withdrawal from a nuclear deal and criticism against Iran over its arrests of dual citizens and other people with Western ties.
Marzieh Hashemi, a prominent American-born anchorwoman for Iranian state television, says she believes the US government jailed her for 10 days because of her beliefs and her work as journalist – and to send a warning to ‘watch your step’
The Tehran-based TV anchor was arrested on January 13 and detained in Washington as a material witness in a federal investigation for 10 days. She was unable to disclose details of the investigation because it is sealed, but she confirmed that it did not involve terrorism and was related to her job and the fact that she lives in Iran
Hashemi, 59, who works for the Press TV network’s English-language service, is a US citizen and was born Melanie Franklin.
She lives in Tehran and returns to the United States about once a year to see her family and work on documentaries.
In the interview, Hashemi gave her first detailed account yet of her arrest. She was waiting to board a plane with her son in St Louis, Missouri, on January 13 after filming a Black Lives Matter documentary when she heard her name called.
She went to the gate and was told she had been selected for pre-boarding, and as she was walking down a jet bridge with her son, Hashemi was stopped by two FBI agents who her she had to come with them.
She said an agent told her: ‘You’re under arrest in connection with some investigation.
Hashemi was brought to a hotel in St Louis and held overnight before being flown to Washington. When she arrived at an FBI facility there, she was fingerprinted and forced to provide a DNA sample, she said.
The next day, she appeared before a judge and was told she was being held as a material witness. Prosecutors argued they needed to take the drastic measure because Hashemi was a flight risk, she said.
‘I said: ‘I’m not running away from anything because I haven’t done anything,” Hashemi recalled. ‘You had no basis to say I was a flight risk.’
She said she believes she was detained ‘because of my belief system, because of who I am’.
‘I am a firm believer in truth and speaking out the truth. I believe in adding a voice to the voiceless, and there are times that this, of course, will contradict the policies of the powers that be. That’s a big part of it,’ she said.
Speaking to AP after her release, Hashemi said she was detained ‘because of my belief system, because of who I am’. She added: ‘This is not the United States that we want. This is not what we believe in’
Hashemi appeared before a judge four times and was questioned by prosecutors before the grand jury on three occasions, according to court documents.
She said prosecutors appeared to only have ‘circumstantial’ evidence in the case and did not have ‘anything of any concrete importance’.
At the Washington jail, Hashemi said she was forced to remove her hijab, despite objecting because of her religious beliefs. She was offered a white T-shirt to put on her head.
As she was led down a hallway in a facility that houses both male and female inmates, she was told by officers that she could not wear the shirt to cover her head and could only wear it once she arrived at her cell, she said.
For several days, her religious dietary restrictions were also not met, she said.
A spokeswoman for the District of Columbia Department of Corrections didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Three of Hashemi’s children were also subpoenaed to the grand jury, though only one was compelled to provide testimony.
Prosecutors also threatened to charge Hashemi if she did not cooperate with their investigation, she said.
‘This is not the United States that we want. This is not what we believe in,’ she said.
She also decried the federal material witness statute and will participate in a demonstration Friday protesting what opponents see as an arcane and unfair law.
A 2012 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general identified 112 cases in which material witnesses were detained from 2000 until 2012. In those cases, the median period of time the witnesses were detained was 26 days.
‘If we allow it, if we turn a blind eye to it, believe me, it will come back to haunt us, and I don’t think most Americans want the country to go in that direction,’ she said.
Responding to a request for comment, the Justice Department noted that federal law allows judges to order witnesses to be detained if the government can ‘demonstrate probable cause to believe that the witness can provide material evidence, and that it will be impracticable to secure the witness’s attendance at the proceedings by means of a subpoena.’
The Justice Department had previously released two unsealed court orders. One confirmed that she was a material witness and the second confirmed she had been released.
Arrests of material witnesses occur infrequently, but the length of Hashemi’s detention wasn’t unusual for a material witness.
Supporters of Hashemi are seen protesting outside the Federal Courthouse where she appeared before a US grand jury on Wednesday
Iranian demonstrators gathered in front of the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which oversees US interests in Iran, to protest Hashemi’s detention
Source: Read Full Article