POLITICS

Congressman Holds Out Hope Iran Will Release Reporter Jason Rezaian

But he warns Rezaian's fate shouldn't be linked to the nuclear deal.

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), the congressman who represents the family of an American imprisoned in Iran, suggests the nuclear deal offers a glimmer of hope for his release.

However, he was careful not to directly link Jason Rezaian's fate with the deal.

"The indications are not nearly as concrete as I would like, but I think there is some reason for cautious optimism right now," Huffman said in an interview with The Huffington Post.

Huffman said his optimism stemmed not just from the deal itself, but also from the hope that leaders in Tehran will feel pressure to show they respect the rule of law at a time when hostile members of Congress are deciding whether or not to approve the agreement.

"I think it has a little bit to do with this deal, and the fact that perhaps the Iranian regime understands that confidence in their basic fairness, rule of law, is an important part of some people's vote formulations on this Iran nuclear deal," Huffman said.

Rezaian, a California native who was working in Iran as a journalist for The Washington Post, was taken into custody along with his Iranian wife more than a year ago, and initially held without charge. He was eventually accused of espionage and other crimes. His wife was released on bail, but Rezaian remains imprisoned and his family has had only sporadic contact with him.

"I think the other piece is Jason just passed one year being held in detention, and under Iranian law, that's illegal to do that without offering him the chance for bail," Huffman added.  "So, they may want to demonstrate to the world that they follow their own laws -- that would be a good thing."

 
<span>Jason Rezaian has been imprisoned in Iran for more than a year. His family, members of the U.S. government and h
  Jason Rezaian has been imprisoned in Iran for more than a year. His family, members of the U.S. government and his employer, The Washington Post, have called for his release.

So far, however, Iranian officials have shown no sign that they will take that step.

Rezaian is believed to have been held largely in solitary confinement, in a cell without bedding or a toilet, and subjected to lengthy interrogations. He is reported to be in poor health, suffering from repeated infections.

His family has had little contact with him.

"These are strong folks, but this is just a terrible thing to go through, to have a member of your family, without any charges, held in one of the worst prisons in Iran, and he's failing -- his psychological health, his physical health," Huffman said. "So there's tremendous angst and concern in his family."

Secretary of State John Kerry recently revealed that he raised Rezaian's case -- as well as the cases of Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini and Robert Levinson, three other Americans believed to be being held in Iran -- constantly along the sidelines of the nuclear talks.

Despite the gravity of the situation for  the captives, Huffman cautioned against any direct linkage of their freedom to the deal, which is not guaranteed to pass Congress.

"Jason Rezaian is innocent, and should be released because he's innocent," Huffman said. "We, I think would be pushing for that in the absence of this deal. We'll be pushing it after this deal, if the deal is approved. To try to conflate it, I think, is not a fair way to approach the nuclear deal, and it's not a fair way to approach someone who's innocent, and should just be released for that reason."

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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