Monday, January 18, 2016

Freed Iran Prisoners: Tidbits of Info

John R. Houk
© January 18, 2016

Here is some info on four of the five Americans imprisoned by Iran but released via behind the scenes diplomacy of the Obama Administration. Those names are:

o   Matthew Trevithick

o   Saeed Abedini

o   Amir Hekmati

o   Jason Rezaian

The media is reporting that Matthew Trevithick was not a part of the prisoner swap between the USA and Iran, however the timing indicates he benefitted from the diplomacy. There is a fourth mystery man who labeled an American citizen from Iran but no one seems to know anything about him. Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari has been listed as the fourth in reference to the prisoner swap. I posted a potential conspiracy theory about Khosravi-Roodsari yesterday entitled “A Robert Levinson - Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari Conspiracy Theory?”.

Here are some collected bits of information on the other released four that will end with Jason Rezaian. Rezaian is the darling of the media since he was working in Iran under the employ of the Washington Post prior to the trumped charges Iran leveled against him. You will discover more from Google than from me about Jason Rezaian.

Matthew Trevithick:

Matthew Trevithick & mother Amelia Newcome 1-17-16

Unlike the widely-publicized imprisonment of the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian, the 40-day captivity of Hingham native Matthew Trevithick was kept secret by friends and family. 
 “Several of the families of those who were detained in Iran had opted in the early days not to say anything,” said Robin Wright, an expert on Iran and a joint fellow at the Wilson Center and U.S. Institute of Peace. “They had hoped that diplomacy would be successful.” 
 “And Matt, in one call home, as well as a request from the State Department, led the family not to talk about it publicly until he was out.” 
 Trevithick’s release is separate from the prisoner swap, Wright said, but it is part of the broader diplomacy between the two countries. 
 Trevithick, 30, was studying Farsi in Tehran when he was detained by Iranian authorities. His mother, Amelia Newcomb, foreign editor at The Christian Science Monitor, says she doesn’t know why her son was held. She recalls the phone call early Saturday morning from her son telling her he was coming home. 
 “He had also learned a good bit of Farsi when he was based in Afghanistan, and he decided he wanted to gain a proficiency and so he enrolled in a four month intensive language training course,” Wright said. 
 Trevithick worked for Wright at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C., helping with the prize-winning 2012 book “Rock The Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World.” 
 … (Mass. Native’s Captivity In Iran Kept A Secret In Hopes Of Diplomacy; By SIMÓN RIOS; WBUR- Boston’s NPR News Station; 1/18/16)

Saeed Abedini:

Formerly a devout Muslim, Pastor Saeed was saved by the Lord Jesus Christ in his Tehran bedroom more than a decade ago. After establishing numerous house churches, he eventually moved to the United States with his wife, Naghmeh. 
 He later returned to Iran with the government’s permission to build an orphanage. He was initially detained in late July 2012 while visiting family in Tehran. Then, on September 26 of that year, members of the Revolutionary Guard raided his parents’ home and took Pastor Saeed to an unknown location. Four days later, his family was informed that he was in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin prison. (American citizen Pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned in Iran since 2012, has finally been freed; Samaritan’s Purse; 1/16/18)


Saeed, who has a Muslim background, was due to be reunited with his wife, Naghmeh, and their two children in Idaho yesterday. 
 He spent more than three years in jail after being arrested in 2012 while visiting an orphanage he was building with government approval. He was sentenced to eight years in jail for ‘threatening national security’ by planting churches. 
 In prison he reportedly endured torture, death threats and pressure to renounce his faith (Prayer Alert, September 25) and was denied medical treatment for internal injuries sustained during beatings. (IRAN – PASTOR SAEED ABEDINI RELEASED! Release International; 1/18/16)


Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of released Pastor Saeed Abedini, has thanked President Barack Obama, the Rev. Franklin Graham, the various groups that campaigned for her husband's release, and the millions of people around the world who signed petitions for the cause. 
 "I wanted to say thank you to all of you for having prayed and have wept with us, have signed petitions and have called your government officials. Thank you for having stood with our family during this difficult journey," Abedini wrote on Facebook late on Sunday, just hours after her husband was finally released from Iranian prison. 

Earlier on Sunday she revealed that Obama had personally called her. 
 "President Obama called moments ago and congratulated our family on Saeed's release! 
 "I could see his love and compassion as he spoke last year and again today. I am thankful for our president and all of the hard work by the White House and the State Department in making this happen," she added. 
 Abedini also thanked Graham, who has spoken out for the pastor's release on numerous occasions, calling on the U.S. government to do everything it can to bring him home. 
 "I am also very thankful for Rev. Franklin Graham. He stood by me and my family and saw us through this ordeal. He is a great spiritual example. May God's anointing be continually on him and his family. God has blessed me not only with a spiritual mentor, but a friend," she wrote. 
 Abedini noted that her legal team at the American Center for Law and Justice worked tirelessly in organizing petitions and continuously campaigning for her husband. 
 "I want to thank the American Center for Law and Justice, Jay Sekulow, Jordan Sekulow and the entire ACLJ team (many of whom worked behind the scenes and whose names might never be known, but I know who you are and pray for you and appreciate all you do) for being there for me and my family every moment of every day from the first moments of Saeed's arrest until now," she wrote. ('Saeed Is Free:' Naghmeh Abedini Thanks Obama, Franklin Graham, Millions of Petitioners; BY STOYAN ZAIMOV; Christian Post; 1/18/16)


The Iranian-American pastor from Idaho, held for more than three years, was exchanged as part of a prisoner swap in which Iran released four people and the United States released seven. 
 As CT previously reported, the now 35-year-old Abedini made frequent trips to Iran. A convert from Islam to Christianity, he had been warned by the Muslim nation against his involvement with house churches. 
 So in 2012, he returned instead to continue building a government-approved orphanage. While there, Abedini was pulled off a bus, charged with undermining national security, and sentenced to eight years in prison. 
 The sentence has resulted in torture and beatings and pressure to recant for Abedini, whose wife and two children live in Boise, Idaho. His release had been requested by Billy Graham, the White House, President ObamaSecretary of State John Kerry, and the United Nations. (Iran Frees Pastor Saeed Abedini after Three Years in Prison; By Jeremy Weber; Christianity TodayGleanings; 1/16/16 09:52AM)

Amir Hekmati:

FLINT, MI -- Amir Hekmati was able to see his family for the first time in more than four years on Monday, Jan. 18 in Germany.  
 The Hekmati family and U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, met with Amir evening at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for approximately 15 minutes. 
 Hekmati was released from Iran over the weekend after he was taken into custody by Iranian authorities in August 2011. He was originally sentenced to death for espionage, but the conviction was overturned. 
 He was then tried and sentenced to 10 years in prison for cooperating with and collaborating with the U.S. government. (Family meets face-to-face with Amir Hekmati after four years in Iran prison; By Roberto Acosta; MLive; 1/18/16 1:20 PM, updated 1/18/16 1:34 PM)


What happened? 
 Amir Hekmati, a former marine and decorated war veteran, was born in Arizona and raised in Michigan. Within weeks of setting foot in Iran for the first time in August 2011 to visit his grandmother, he was arrested, interrogated and imprisoned.  Months later he appeared on Iranian TV, forced to confess he was a CIA operative. The U.S. State Department denies he was spying for the U.S. government and calls the case a gross miscarriage of justice. While Amir languishes in prison, his health deteriorating, and his father dying of cancer, his family pleads with the Iranian government to let him go free. (About Amir; Free Amir)


WASHINGTON — Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine from Flint who has been held in an Iranian prison for more than four years on what his family and American officials maintained was a false charge of espionage, flew out of the country on Sunday, headed to Germany on a Swiss aircraft, officials told the Free Press. 
 Hekmati was taken into custody in 2011 while visiting relatives in Iran. Initially charged with espionage, he was sentenced to death. His term was later reduced after the charges were changed, but both the U.S. government and the Hekmati family have resolutely denied that Amir was a spy. 
 Hekmati's family, who were not available by phone or at their home to comment, posted a statement on their Facebook page Saturday afternoon saying, 'We thank everyone for your thoughts during this time. There are still many unknowns. At this point, we are hoping and praying for Amir’s long-awaited return.” 
 … Hekmati said on the recording. "I'm convinced the only reason I'm alive and allowed to use the prison phone is your support and international outcry at my imprisonment." 
 "My captors would have much preferred to keep my voice from being heard, and have me remain in solitary confinement ... in miserable conditions." (Freed from Iran, Flint's Amir Hekmati, others headed to Germany; Todd Spangler and Matt Helms; Detroit Free Press; 1/17/16 9:17 a.m. EST)

Jason Rezaian:

WASHINGTON — The Iranian authorities held the wife and mother of the journalist Jason Rezaian without telephones for hours in a separate room at a Tehran airport on Sunday before finally agreeing under American pressure to let them leave along with prisoners released in an exchange with the United States. 
 The last-minute conflict came close to unraveling a prisoner swap that was negotiated during 14 months of secret talks and that had already been announced to the world. In the end, Mr. Rezaian’s wife and mother were permitted to fly with him to Europe later on Sunday, but the episode underscored that parts of Iran’s factionalized system still strongly resist any rapprochement with the United States. 
 But as Mr. Rezaian and the other two prisoners, Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini, were preparing to leave, no one could find Mr. Rezaian’s wife, Yeganeh Salehi, or his mother, Mary. Ms. Salehi, an Iranian journalist, had been arrested with Mr. Rezaian in July 2014 before being released, and his mother had come to Iran to be closer to her imprisoned son. 
 “They had disappeared,” said an American official, who along with others described the events on the condition of anonymity. “Nobody could find them and they were not answering phones. The Iranians then said there were legal issues that would prevent either from leaving the country.” 
 Iranian officials tried to persuade the Americans and the Swiss to take the three prisoners and leave without Ms. Salehi or Ms. Rezaian. In Geneva, Brett McGurk, the lead American negotiator, refused, saying the deal had always included Mr. Rezaian’s family. 
 By Mr. Kerry’s account, Mr. Zarif agreed to help and assigned four Iranian officials to look into the issue. Mr. Kerry made his statement on the nuclear agreement to the news media and then headed to the airport for an overnight flight to the United States. He called Mr. Zarif again to check on the situation. 
 But that did not end the standoff. After midnight in Tehran, the Americans finally obtained an order from Iran’s prosecutor general for the family to leave. But Ms. Salehi and Ms. Rezaian could still not be found. 
 Several hours later, around 2 a.m. in Geneva, Iranian officials summoned Mr. McGurk to their hotel room and said the deal had to be consummated without Mr. Rezaian’s wife and mother. Mr. McGurk said that if they did not show up at the plane waiting on the tarmac promptly, there would be no deal. 
 “We started to conclude that Mary and Yegi were being held to destroy the deal,” the American official said. 
 It was not until 4 a.m. in Geneva, or 6:30 a.m. in Tehran, that the Americans finally reached Ms. Rezaian. She and Ms. Salehi were by then back at their hotel. The Americans contacted the Swiss and asked them to pick up the women and bring them to the airport. 
 But then once they arrived, Mr. Rezaian’s family was separated from the Swiss. It was not until two hours later that the Swiss ambassador, who was the guarantor for the deal, called the Americans in Geneva. 
 “I see now all five, including Yegi and Mary, approaching our plane,” he told them. 
 The Swiss plane then took off for Geneva with the three freed prisoners and Mr. Rezaian’s family. (Detention of Jason Rezaian’s Family Nearly Torpedoed Iran Prisoner Swap; By PETER BAKER; NYT; 1/18/16)


Mr. Rezaian, from California, was arrested in July 2014 and later charged with spying and spreading propaganda against the Iranian system. 
 His family and lawyers denied the charges, but a Tehran court convicted him in October. State media later reported that he had been sentenced to an unspecified prison term. 
 As part of the swap, which coincided with Saturday’s implementation of last summer’s landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, the U.S. agreed to release seven Iranians. It also agreed to stop pursuing 14 Iranians it had placed on Interpol’s wanted list. (Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian Departs From Iran After Prisoner Swap; By ASA FITCH; WSJ; Updated 1/17/16 8:37 a.m. ET)


Mr Rezaian's family reported that his health deteriorated in prison, where he lost weight and suffered from high blood pressure, and that he was held for months in isolation without access to a lawyer. 
 The Washington Post also said he was subjected to physical mistreatment and psychological abuse before finally being convicted of espionage in what it called a sham trial. 
 "Isolation, as you might expect, was the most difficult thing. When told, well, you're a social person, he laughed and responded, 'Yes, I am!'" said Martin Baron, executive editor, and Douglas Jehl, foreign editor. 
 "He found escape in the fiction he was allowed to read, and today he was avidly reading whatever he wanted... remarking on how strange it was to see himself being talked about so much," they added. 
 "We told him we've been talking about him for 545 days." 
 Mr Rezaian, a dual US-Iranian citizen born in California, was detained in Iran on July 22, 2014. 
 He was arrested at the same time as his wife Yeganeh Salehi, an Iranian who at that time was a journalist for The National, an Abu Dhabi-based newspaper. She was released on bail a few months later. 
 Both Mr Rezaian, 39, and his wife left Iran on a plane earlier on Sunday. (Jason Rezaian in 'good spirits' after Iran ordeal; By AFP; The Telegraph; 1/18/16 5:33AM GMT)

JRH 1/18/16

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