London- Jason Rezaian, The Washington Post’s former bureau chief in Tehran who was imprisoned in Iran for 544 days, filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the Iranian government, accusing it of hostage-taking, torture and terrorism. Rezaian was held hostage during the nuclear negotiations, which spurred tense relations with the United States.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, contained many previously undisclosed details of Mr. Rezaian’s struggles forced by the Iranian penal system. Mr.Rezaian’s experience with the Iranian security crackdowns showcases sever brutality resulting in a drastic 50-pound weight loss, thoughts of suicide and threats by his captors to dismember him and his wife, and throw him off a cliff.
The suit, which also lists his family as plaintiffs, essentially accused the Iranian authorities of having used Mr. Rezaian as leverage in the nuclear negotiations because they regarded him as a high-value prisoner who could be swapped for something they wanted.
It is at least the second federal lawsuit against Iran filed by Americans who were released by the Tehran government when the nuclear agreement took effect in January. The pact eased some sanctions on Iran in exchange for reduced nuclear activities.
Amir Hekmati, a Marine veteran whose incarceration of more than four years made him the longest-serving prisoner to be freed, filed a similar lawsuit in Washington against Iran last May.
“The Iranian Government targeted and arrested Jason Rezaian, subjected him to torture and other cruel treatment, and held him hostage for the unlawful purpose of extorting concessions from the U.S. Government and others,” the lawsuit by Mr. Rezaian asserted.
There was no immediate comment from the Iranian government to the lawsuit, which did not specify a monetary amount in damages sought. Iranian officials have repeatedly denounced what they regard as illicit court actions in the United States to seize Iranian assets to satisfy legal claims.
Mr. Rezaian, a Californian of Iranian descent, was arrested along with his Iranian wife, Yeganeh Salehi, on July 22, 2014, in their home in Tehran, on vaguely defined charges of espionage that were never proved. She was released after 72 days but ordered not to speak about the case.
His trial was held in secret by an Iranian Revolutionary Court judge who has been placed on a European Union blacklist for rights abuses.
Mr. Rezaian spent practically all of his incarceration in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, part of it in solitary confinement. He suffered high blood pressure and other untreated disorders, the lawsuit said, and was malnourished with prison food that “in some cases contained concrete, rocks, dirt or other foreign and inedible objects.”
While the United States repeatedly demanded the release of all Americans imprisoned in Iran during the nuclear talks, the prosecution of Mr. Rezaian became a cause for press-freedom advocates and others, including Muhammad Ali.
The lawsuit said Mr. Rezaian and his wife, along with his brother, Ali Rezaian, and mother, Mary Rezaian, had not only suffered the “deep and lasting psychological impacts of Iran’s crimes,” but that their livelihoods and futures had been upended.
“For 544 days, Jason suffered such physical mistreatment and severe psychological abuse in Evin Prison that he will never be the same, he will require specialized medical and other treatment for the rest of his life,” the lawsuit stated. “Yeganeh, Mary and Ali each suffered their own extreme psychological trauma.”
Mr. Rezaian and Ms. Salehi, who accompanied him to the United States when he was freed, “may never again see or spend time with many other family members, friends and colleagues in Iran,” the lawsuit said.
The Washington Post is not a party to the lawsuit, but its executive editor, Martin Baron, was outspoken in his criticism of Iran during Mr. Rezaian’s prosecution, calling it “Kafkaesque.”
Mr. Rezaian, 40, is on leave from The Washington Post and is currently a Nieman fellow at Harvard University. He was not immediately reachable for comment on the lawsuit.
His brother said in an email that there was no particular significance to the timing of the lawsuit and that “we’ve been working on it for some time.”