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US court orders Iran to pay $180 million for 2014 detention of American journalist

Washington Post Reporter Jason Rezaian and His Wife (U.S. Department of State/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A U.S. court has ordered Iran pay a Washington Post reporter and his family nearly $180 million in damages for jailing the Iranian-American journalist on espionage charges in 2014.

A U.S. District Court judge on November 22 ruled that the damages be paid to reporter Jason Rezaian and his family to compensate for pain and suffering as well as for economic loss during the 18-month detention in Iran.

Rezaian said he was physically abused, deprived of sleep and medical care, and threatened with execution during his detention.

He was released by Tehran in 2016 after 544 days.

The decision is likely mostly symbolic. Tehran did not respond to the lawsuit and is not expected to pay the damages.

However, Rezaian’s lawyer, David W. Bowker, said they could be paid from a fund established by Congress in 2015 to pay victims of terrorism.

“Holding a man hostage and torturing him to gain leverage in negotiations with the United States is outrageous, deserving of punishment, and surely in need of deterrence,” Judge Richard J. Leon said in his ruling.

Leon added that Rezaian has “trouble sleeping, and sometimes wakes up screaming due to nightmares,” after enduring torture by authorities in Iran.

Iran was ordered pay $150 million in punitive damages to Rezaian and his wife, Mary, and brother, Ali.

The court also ordered Tehran to pay nearly $24 million for pain, suffering, and economic losses to Rezaian and millions more to his wife and brother.

The Rezaians had sought $1 billion in punitive damages.

Rezaian was an accredited journalist working as the Post’s Tehran correspondent when he was arrested on July 22, 2014.

He was subjected to solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, and aggressive interrogations and was denied basic medical care for illnesses and infections, according to the family’s lawsuit, filed in 2016.

Rezaian’s Iranian-born wife, Yeganah, was arrested at the same time but released after two months.

The two became caught up in a power struggle among the Iranian leadership over the country’s nuclear deal and Tehran’s relations with the West.

“The Rezaians presented evidence showing that Iran arrested and detained Jason to increase its bargaining leverage in ongoing negotiations with the United States,” the judge said.

Rezaian and three other U.S. citizens were released on January 16, 2016, the day the nuclear agreement that was signed in Vienna six months earlier went into force.

U.S. President Donald Trump in May 2018 pulled the United States out of the accord, which had been signed under the previous administration of President Barack Obama.