Marzieh Hashemi is natural born citizen of the United States. She was born in New Orleans in 1959 and given her American name, Melanie Franklin. Wikipedia entries state that she was reared in an African-American Christian family in Louisiana.
Hashemi’s life took a dramatic turn in 1979 when a revolution ousted the Shah and Iran became an Islamic nation under the rule of the religious and political leader Ayatollah Khomeimi. The budding 20-year-old television broadcasting student was inspired by the Islamic revolution, converted to Islam, and became a journalist for Islamic newspapers and publication based in the United States.
U.S Reporter Moves to Iran
In 2008 Hashemi moved to Iran where she became an Iranian citizen pursuing a career as a television journalist and a documentarian. She periodically, and legally, returned to the U.S. to visit her family. Her personal and professional life has been torn by the contentious relationship and ongoing hostilities between the U.S. and Iran that have existed since the hostage-taking of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November 1979.
Trump Campaigns on “Bad Deal” with Iran
The Trump presidential campaign and his administration has continuously exacerbated the difficult relationship with Iran by claiming the historic accord reached in 2015 between the Iran, the United States and its allies to reduce economic sanctions against the Islamic state in exchange for its commitment to curtail its nuclear enrichment program was a “bad deal.” Trump repeatedly referred to the accord as a “rotten” deal that was an “embarrassment” to the U.S.
Last May President Trump summarily withdrew the U.S. from the accord. This arbitrary decision was made by Trump despite his own intelligence community and U.S. European allies telling him that Iran had remained in compliance with the terms of the accord. Just last month Trump’s own handpicked intelligence chiefs told the U.S. Senate that Iran has continued to remain in compliance with the nuclear accord, despite the U.S.’s withdrawal from the agreement.
Trump Nestles up With Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia and Iran have long been, and continue to be, bitter rivals. This intense relationship has sparked three bloody wars the countries vie for military, political and religious position in the Middle East. Trump has maintained longstanding subservient personal and political ties to the Saudi Royal Family. Saudi Arabia was the first country Trump chose to visit as president, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has made secret trips to the country and has established a close, personal relationship with the Royal Family’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
These shady, most probably corrupt ties between Trump’s mafia-styled organization and the Saudi Royal Family, along with his incessant political fear mongering, has not only influenced but most likely directs the president’s persistent hostile actions and threats against Iran.
This past month Reuters reported that a federal grand jury sitting in Washington, D.C. had opened an investigation into whether Iran’s Press TV had failed to register as a foreign agent—something a propaganda media outlet is required to do under federal law.
And that is where Marzieh Hashemi enters the fray.
Reporter Held as Material Witness
On her way to visit relatives, Hashemi was taken into custody at the St. Louis Lambert International Airport on January 13, 2019 and held as a material witness for the next ten days in connection with the Press TV investigation. She appeared before that grand jury four times during that ten-day incarceration before a signed order by U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell stated the Iranian journalist had satisfied “her obligation in this material-witness matter” and her connection to the grand jury probe was “closed.”
Shortly after her detention, Hashemi managed to get in touch with Press TV via telephone communications through her family and delivered the following statement as reported by Reuters:
“I condemn the situation in the United States that individuals can be detained, arrested, without charge. My request is that these demonstrations (opposing her detention) continue … because it is not about me. It is important to know that this can happen to any person at any time in the United States –these illegal detentions, though they may call it legal.”
Material Witness Statute, 18 USC 3144
U.S. law does permit the detention of a material witness.
On June 1, 2011, In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 Twin Towers attack in New York City and the subsequent enactment of the USA Patriot Act, the bipartisan Congressional Research Service (“CRS”) cited concerns that the material witness law has been abused.
The federal material witness law is so broad and over-reaching that a person can be arrested and, like Hashemi, be imprisoned until they are called upon to testify either before Congress or a grand jury. The CRS reported in 2011 that the U.S. Supreme Court has never directly ruled on the constitutionality of these authoritarian provisions of the material witness law.
Historically, the Supreme Court has observed that the “duty to disclose knowledge of a crime … is so vital that one known to be innocent may be detained in the absence of bail, as a material witness.” Nearly six decades later the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. al-Kidd (a post-9/11 case) held that “an objectively reasonable arrest and detention of a material witness pursuant to a validly obtained warrant cannot be challenged as unconstitutional on the basis of allegations that the arresting authority had an improper motive.” The dissent, however, noted the potential abuse of the statute and warned Al-Kidd’s “ordeal is a grim reminder of the need to install safeguards against disrespect for human dignity, constraints that will control officialdom even in perilous times.”
Detained and Abused
The CRS reported claims from critics that between September 11, 2001 and 2011, some seventy individuals, almost all of whom were Muslins, were arrested and detained “in abuse of the statute’s authority.”
Hashemi’s arrest and 10-day detention appears to us as a continuation of that pattern of abuse of the material witness statute. It must be remembered that in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, U.S. authorities rounded up nearly 800 individuals in the United States and detained them without charge. These “witnesses,” were held in brutal solitary confinement, and according to a 2015 Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision, were slammed into walls by their U.S. captors who also bent or twisted their fingers, hands, arms, and wrists. The captors insulted their Islamic faith and made disgusting sexual comments about the detainees during unwarranted strip searches before returning them to their cells where they would be shackled and handcuffed. It was a frightening time for hundreds of men, who had no ties to terrorism, but were locked up and abused for months at a time.
This is the kind of Orwellian government President Trump believes is needed to “Make America Great Again.” So, it does not surprise us that an innocent Iranian citizen, as well as a natural-born American citizen, would be snatched up in a U.S. airport, detained incommunicado for days, and compelled to give testimony about a matter she may have had no relevant information.
This is what they routinely do in Saudi Arabia, and it has no place in America, not even under the present autocratic administration.