U.S. Judge Orders Iranian Government to Pay $180 Million to Detained Journalist Jason Rezaian and His Family

Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian delivers remarks at grand opening of Washington Post newsroom in Washington / Thomson Reuters

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Iranian government to pay Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and his family $180 million in damages for his 18-month detention during U.S.-Iran nuclear talks in 2014, saying it was needed to deter future taking of American hostages.

Rezaian, then The Post’s Tehran-based correspondent, and his newlywed wife were seized July 22, 2014; placed separately in solitary confinement; and threatened with execution, physical mutilation and dismemberment, his family testified earlier this year. He spent 544 days in custody. His wife was released after two months.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon of Washington entered a default judgment against Iran, which did not answer the lawsuit, following a two-day hearing in January.

Leon granted Rezaian $23.8 million in compensatory damages for pain, suffering and economic losses; his brother Ali $2.7 million and their mother, Mary, $3.1 million for similar claims; and the family $150 million in punitive damages.

“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,” Leon wrote in a 30-page opinion.

Rezaian was released with three other Americans in a prisoner swap completed Jan. 16, 2016, the day the nuclear pact was implemented. In exchange, seven Iranians charged or imprisoned on sanctions violations won U.S. grants of clemency. Rezaian’s wife, Yeganeh Rezaian, had been released separately and is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Rezaian’s attorney David Bowker said the family had sought $44 million in compensatory damages and $1 billion in punitive damages to force Iranian authorities “to recalculate the costs and benefits” of using hostages and terrorism as tools of diplomatic leverage.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu and Carol Morello