By FARAZ T. TOOR
The brother of a Washington Post journalist imprisoned in Iran delivered over half a million signatures Thursday to Iran’s United Nations permanent mission, marking his brother’s 500th day in custody and demanding his immediate release.
“Things like Thanksgiving [and] this day, they’re tough,” the brother, Ali Rezaian, said to reporters outside the mission. “I hate the milestones down the road; I want him home now.”
Outside the building at 622 3rd Ave. in Manhattan, six people held signs that displayed messages such as “#FreeJason” and “500 days too long.”
The messages refer to Jason Rezaian, who Iranian officials arrested July 2014 in the country.
The supporters marched with Ali to the mission’s entrance. Once inside, according to Ali and public relations firm MWW, he delivered a thumb drive to Iranian officials that contained electronic copies of more than 533,000 signatures for the petition.
“We request the immediate and unconditional release of Jason Rezaian from Iranian custody,” read the petition, which was addressed to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, and Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani.
The representatives allowed only Ali inside the building. According to him, they accepted the petition and asked to whom Ali wanted it delivered. Ali said the foreign ministry.
“As long as Jason’s not home, we’re not satisfied,” Ali said to reporters.
Representatives from change.org have helped push people to sign the petition since it was created shortly after Jason was arrested.
According to them, Iranian security forces raided the foreign correspondent’s home in Tehran and took his notes, laptops, and books.
They then reportedly arrested Jason and his wife Yeganeh and sent them to Evin prison in the capital.
Iranian authorities released Yeganeh in October 2014 under the condition that she not leave the country, but charged Jason with espionage and other crimes.
Jason’s attorney and the Washington Post have argued that there is no basis to the charges levied against him.
An Iranian court sentenced him to prison Nov. 22 for an unspecified length of time, according to news agency Tasnim.
Ali said Jason has not been interrogated, but Iranian authorities have not allowed him to see anyone besides his mother and wife.
Wendy Sherman, the former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs who negotiated the Iranian nuclear deal, reportedly informally asked Iranian officials to release Rezaian and other Americans that the country holds. Success of the deal, however, was not dependent on the release.
“He’s innocent,” Ali said about his brother. “They’ve made excuse after excuse after excuse for holding him.”
Jason’s supporters want the case to be reviewed and for the U.N’s Human Rights Council to examine it, according to Ali.
Iran is holding two other Americans, Saeed Abedini and Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, according to the American Center for Law and Justice. In 2007, retired FBI agent Robert Levinson went missing in Iran.
Ali and Jason’s supporters were expected to be in Washington at the National Press Club on Friday to read Jason’s stories for 24 hours to raise more awareness, particularly to show that he was a journalist.