WASHINGTON — It has been more than 10 days since the FBI arrested Iranian American journalist for Iran’s Press TV Marzieh Hashemi. She is due to testify before a grand jury for a third time in an unknown criminal case on Wednesday, as protesters rally for her release outside the courthouse.
Her three children are expected to testify on Wednesday as well, according to a statement from an associate of the family.
Though Hashemi has not been charged with a crime, she has been detained in a jail in Washington as a “material witness” in the criminal case, meaning that the government requires her testimony and believes she would flee if forced to give it.
According to her family, Hashemi was forced to remove her hijab while taking a mugshot.
“She was given short-sleeved clothing that does not comply with her religious dress code and she was forced to wrap a t-shirt on her hair as a temporary head-covering,” Hashemi’s daughter Sarah wrote on Facebook on Friday. “The police had refused to give her halal or vegetarian meals, effectively denying her food and meaning she has only been able to eat a little bread since being detained.”
As MintPress News reported last week, a campaign to #FreeMarziehHashemi was launched on social media to highlight the lack of accommodations for her religious practices and her draconian detention as a “material witness.” In a message from the Hashemi family on Facebook, Marzieh’s supporters were thanked and explicitly credited for the improvements to the conditions she faces. The family wrote:
The media exposure has been extremely helpful, in a very real way. The prison where she is being held is now making special arrangements for her food to be halal. They have also finally facilitated her requests regarding hijab. We do not think this would have been possible without media exposure and community pressure.”
Meanwhile, the GoFundMe page to support Marzieh Hashemi has already raised more than $50,000.
Support from Iran and around the world
The Iranian government has been vocal in its opposition to Hashemi’s detention. Though she is an American citizen, she “is also an Iranian citizen,” Iran’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, explained on Thursday. “We have a right to continue to look after her interests as an Iranian citizen who has been wrongfully imprisoned in the United States.”
“She is a famous journalist,” Zarif said, adding that her arrest is a “very clear affront to freedom of expression.”
On Monday, the federal holiday in the U.S. honoring civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., Zarif continued his calls for justice for Hashemi, tweeting that the U.S. government “needs to explain” why Hashemi, “a journalist and grandmother,” is considered a flight risk. “Fifty years after MLK assassination, U.S. still violates the civil rights of black men and women,” Zarif said.
Following Zarif’s remarks, Iran’s Foreign Ministry lodged a protest on Tuesday with the Swiss ambassador to Tehran, who has represented the U.S. in diplomatic relations with Iran since 1980, when diplomatic ties were severed between the countries.
Later, Marzieh’s son Hossein Hashemi-Niasari told the New York Times that “there are going to be fairly large protests by the end of the week,” should his mother remain in custody. Protesters gathered outside the Washington courthouse in which Hashemi was to testify on Wednesday. Protests are also planned in Ankara, London, New York City, Copenhagen, Toronto, Sydney, Tehran and at least 16 other cities.
Top Photo | Demonstrators gather in front of the Swiss Embassy, which oversees U.S. interests in Iran, to protest the detention in the U.S of Marzieh Hashemi, an American-born anchorwoman who works for Press TV, Jan. 20, 2019. Protesters rallied in Tehran to demand the release of Hashemi who has been jailed in the U.S. as a material witness and has not been charged with any crime. Vahid Salemi | AP
Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons, and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.
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