WASHINGTON - A U.S. journalist who was jailed in Iran for 18 months has filed a federal lawsuit against the Iranian government, claiming he was taken hostage and tortured in an attempt to extract concessions from the U.S. government.
Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian said in the suit that he was targeted for arrest so Iran could gain negotiating leverage with the United States and to ultimately exchange him "for something of value to Iran."
The suit says that Iranian officials repeatedly told Rezaian and his wife, who was also detained for more than two months, that Rezaian was valuable as a bargaining chip for a prisoner swap.
Rezaian was one of four journalists freed from an Iranian prison in January, hours before the United States and other world powers finalized a deal with Tehran on its nuclear program. At the same time, the United States pardoned seven Iranian prisoners and dropped charges against 14 other Iranians.
Rezaian filed his lawsuit Monday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and asked for unspecified damages from Iran for "cruelty, torture and abuse" during his captivity.
The journalist is filing the suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The law normally bars Americans from suing foreign governments in U.S. courts, however it makes an exception for terrorist acts by countries the U.S. State Department has designated as state sponsors of terrorism.
According to the lawsuit, Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, were subjected to physical and extreme psychological abuse during lengthy interrogations in which authorities threatened to main or kill them, and warned each that the other might be killed as well. The suit said the experience was so overwhelming that both Rezaian and Salehi contemplated suicide, and it says Rezaian experiences symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Washington Post says it is not involved in the legal action but says it “continues to support the Rezaians through their long and painful recovery.” It says Rezaian is on leave from the newspaper for a year as a Nieman fellow at Harvard University.