Iranian Press TV journalist released without charge after 10 days in US custody
23 January, 2018
A US-born Iranian journalist was freed without charge on Wednesday after testifying before a grand jury. Her arrest by the FBI had sparked protests and accusations of racism against Washington.
Marzieh Hashemi, 59, was snatched by FBI agents at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis last week, after she arrived in the US to meet her family. Born Melanie Franklin to an African-American family in Louisiana, she is a veteran TV presenter and producer for Press TV, Iran’s international English-language news network. The US authorities offered no explanation as to why she was arrested.
On Friday last week, an unsealed court order revealed that Hashemi was taken into custody as a material witness in an unspecified criminal case, but she was not charged with any crime. On Wednesday, she appeared before a DC District Court accompanied by her son to testify before a grand jury. Hours later, they both left. Hashemi is now staying with her family at a Washington-area hotel.
“She is relieved that this is over but the family is pretty angry and upset at the way that this happened,”said Abed Ayoud, a lawyer for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Three of Hashemi’s adult children have been subpoenaed to testify in the same case.
The US law that allows witnesses to be arrested is rarely used in practice. Nargess Moballeghi, a friend of the detained journalist, told RT that its use is controversial due to alleged abuse of this power.
“The ACLU and Human Rights Watch talked about how since 9/11 this law has basically been used to detain Muslims indefinitely without trial – in essence on a fishing expedition,” she said.
The arrest and lack of explanation from the US were criticized by Iran, with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif saying her treatment was the latest example of racism in America. “50 years after MLK assassination, US still violates the civil rights of black men and women,” he tweeted on Monday.
A protest was held on Wednesday by supporters of Hashemi in front of UN offices in Tehran, while another one was staged in Washington DC. Her family in the US said Black Lives Matter and other groups defending black rights were helping to organize rallies on US soil, if the journalist’s detention continued.