In a late Friday judgement, a US federal judge has awarded nearly $180 million to Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post journalist who spent 544 days in Iran's captivity over espionage charges.
US District Judge Richard J Leon, in his judgement awarded $180 million to the WaPo journalist and his wife, who were arrested at gunpoint by Iran's security forces in 2014. Held captive, he was later convicted for espionage in a closed trial before a Revolutionary Court. He spent 544 days at Tehran's Evin prison, on still-unexplained espionage charges.
Citing his judgement, the judge described Rezaian's ordeal in prison of how authorities denied the journalist sleep, medical care and abused him during his imprisonment. "Iran seized Jason, threatened to kill Jason, and did so with the goal of compelling the United States to free Iranian prisoners as a condition of Jason's release," Leon said in his ruling.
He further added, "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."
Jason Rezaian arrested along with his wife at gunpoint
The WaPo journalist was arrested in 2014, along with his wife Yeganeh Salehi, also a journalist. Despite being an accredited journalist for the Post with permission to live and work in Iran, Rezaian was taken to Tehran's Evin prison and later convicted on shady espionage charges in a closed-trial.
He was freed in 2016 in a prison swap between US and Iran, just as Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers came into force and economic sanctions on the nation were eased. The journalist filed the case against Iran, earlier this year and named Iran's Revolutionary Guards as the defendants.
Rezaian, an Iranian-American, born and brought up in California, left his carpet business in the states and went to his other homeland, Iran to work as a journalist. He worked as Washington Post's Tehran correspondent, during his arrest.
How will the amount be paid?
It's still unknown how the $180 million be paid to the journalist, or will it even be paid. The money could come from the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which has distributed funds to those held and affected by Iran's 1979 student takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran and subsequent hostage crisis, AP reported.
Iran didn't respond to the lawsuit despite it being handed over to the government by the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which oversees US interests in the country.
In 2018, another Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, critical of Saudi regime, especially it's crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, was murdered and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, an incident that sent shock-wave and garnered worldwide condemnation.