PressTV news anchor, Marzieh Hashemi, was released after ten days in a federal prison in Washington DC. Today, she completed her third appearance before a federal grand jury as a “material witness” in a case which the Justice Department has sealed. She was arrested at the St. Louis airport as she was about to board a flight to Colorado to visit her son, who is a graduate fellow at the University of Colorado. Hashemi is a U.S. citizen, and only the second known citizen to be seized in this fashion and held under detention. The material witness is supposed to be used only as an extreme last resort when the government believes there is a high likelihood someone may make themselves unavailable to testify by leaving the country. In this case, arresting her was completely unwarranted and a constitutional violation.
Unfortunately, the organizations which are supposed to uphold those rights remained largely on the wayside. Neither the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights nor Reporters Without Borders made any official statement of concern and objection. I contacted all three (and other NGOs who did make statements) and none even bothered to respond (CCR did respond with a limp tweet on my second attempt to elicit any response). I wonder if they will offer to represent her in a lawsuit against the Justice Department, as recompense for being AWOL while she needed them in prison. To be fair, Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s Human Rights program did tweet twice in his personal capacity expressing distress at her treatment.
Very concerning that U.S. officials are not even confirming the arrest of journalist Marzieh Hashemi. Does the Trump administration want to disappear and lock up journalists like in authoritarian regimes? https://t.co/9XM67cg3eR
— Jamil Dakwar (@jdakwar) January 16, 2019
Reuters quoted an anonymous government source claiming that her arrest was related to a case the government was pursuing against PressTV for failing to register as a foreign agent. One of the claims the source made was that the news outlet was not a proper media organizations, but rather a “propaganda outlet.” Why the feds need to file a secret criminal complaint in this matter when they quite openly ordered Sputnik and RT to do the same–without arrests and without grand jury proceedings. The answer can only be that Trump is rattling his sabers against Iran, possibly at the behest of his leading administration regime-changers, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo. Hashemi got squeezed unenviably between the the unstoppable force of the Trump administration and the immovable object of Iran.
I always find it ironic when pro-Israel types attack me for doing interviews on PressTV or publishing at Middle East Eye. They claim that the former is a propaganda outlet for the Iranian regime and MEE is funded by Qatar. What do these people think Israel Hayom, Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Makor Rishon or Arutz Sheva are? Free, independent news outlets publishing without fear or favor? Really. Most of them are owned by billionaire oligarchs and represent the views of their owners. Is there a difference between being funded by a nation or by an oligarch? And what do we think Voice of America, Radio Marti, Radio Free Europe are? They are fully funded media outlets airing news that reflect and promote the interests of the U.S. government. One may be more polished or slightly less dogmatic than the other–but they both have similar aims. My own aims have nothing to do with the interests of PressTV or the U.S. government. I am offering my own independent critique of Israeli and U.S. policy. And I do that without fear or favor.
News reports say that Hashemi plans to remain in Washington DC for a protest against her treatment scheduled for Friday.
Sho Time says
“In this case, arresting her was completely unwarranted and a constitutional violation. ”
Since the case against Press TV remains sealed, I don’t see how you can say that the arrest is unwarranted, and I don’t see how Ms Hashemi’s constitutional rights were violated when she received due process, i.e. she appeared before a grand jury and was promptly released when her testimony concluded.
She is now free to fly home to her adopted homeland and continue working for Press TV.
Compare Ms Hashemi’s ordeal with that of Washington Post columnist Jason Rezaian, who spent 535 day in an Iranian prison after he was convicted of ‘espionage’ in a closed door trial.
I don’t recall Press TV making a hew and cry over Jason Rezaian’s patently illegal conviction and imprisonment.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Sho Time: I don’t know if you are American or not. But if you are you never took a course on the U.S. constitution and don’t understand what “due process” means. There was no due process in this case. She was arrested under an obscure provision of law that is dubious at best, especially when applied to U.S. citizens. She was arrested without cause. She was imprisoned without cause. She was held without cause. And the criminal case for which she testified is secret. This is a flagrant constitutional violation. I would hope she would sue the government.
It is highly likely if PressTV and activists like me (and others who joined the cause) didn’t scream bloody murder she’d still be behind bars.
BTW, since you brought up Jason Rezaian, who was treated brutally and shamefully by the Iranians, I don’t recall seeing any statement of solidarity by him for Hashemi. Why is that? You’d think having gone through the experience as a journalist he’d want to express solidarity with her and demand her release. But not a peep. Interesting, huh?
Jason Rezaian is a red herring and you know it. Stick to the subject at hand and stop attempting to hijack and divert the discussion.
The cowardice of the ACLU is galling, seeing as how they also not speak up for Ted Rall in his lawsuit with the “Los Angeles Times” (they fired him for making cartoons mocking the LAPD, then concocted an excuse to exonerate themselves) because the “Times” used “anti-SLAPP” laws as it’s defense, and the ACLU wont side against anti-SLAPP. Now Rall is on the hook for $300,000 from a media firm that is now owned by a multi-billionare (Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.)
It’s great that Marzieh Hashemi was released after only three days, but it’s disgusting that she was picked up in the first place. What are we, Israel?
Sho Time says
[comment deleted: if I wanted to have a long debate about Ted Rall’s firing I’d have written a post about it. I didn’t. So let’s put Mr. Rall to bed and stay on-topic.]
Sho Time says
I am an American, and a law student as well, and we have been taught that due process is the legal requirement that the state must respect all legal rights that are owed to a person.
With the authority of 18 U.S.C. § 3144, the United States government can seek a warrant from a judicial officer in order to arrest a material witness. This is old, settled law, and has been codified since the 1980’s.
Ms Hashemi was detained and ordered to testify before a Grand Jury, which jury may or may not produce a sealed indictment. Sealed indictments are not so uncommon, in fact the DC Courts are full of them.
Although Ms Hashemi was never charged with a crime, she had legal counsel from a court appointed lawyer. Once her testimony was completed, she was free and unfettered.
This affair was a text book case in the exercise of due process. Please tell me what Constitutional guarantee was flaunted and I will ask my Con Law professors about it.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Sho TIme: If you are a law student, you are a very bad one. Due process means giving citizens the right to know what they are accused of; that they not be arrested arbitrarily; that they be entitled to defend themselves; and that they cannot be deprived of liberty arbitrarily. ALl of these provisions were violated in this case. Not only is she a U.S. citizen, but a journalist. Her treatment violated freedom of the press provisions as well.
The material witness statute is NOT “settled law.” There are literally hundreds of law review and media analyses which attack this outrageous statute. You’d know that if you were a halfway decent law student.
Hashemi was arrested, not informed of any charges against her, imprisoned and abused in prison. Had protests against her treatment not raised public awareness and media attention her imprisonment could have continued indefinitely.
Do not publish another comment in this thread. And stop pimping for Trump’s Justice Department. A seedy, shameful band of rogues under Sessions and now Whitaker, who himself is corrupt. If Robert Barr doesn’t get confirmed as attorney general, Trump would be looking for a sycophant just like you to run the place.
Sho Time says
[Comment deleted: when i tell a commenter not to comment further in a thread, it’s not a suggestion. You did not respect my request. Your next comment rule violation will lead to moderation.]