Global Rallies Planned in 24 Cities to Demand Iran TV Anchor’s Release
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Rallies are scheduled to be held in 24 cities across the globe on Friday, January 25, to demand the release of Iran’s Press TV news anchor Marzieh Hashemi, who has been detained and held in the United States for 11 days so far without charge.
The rallies have been called by Hashemi’s children to also protest a US criminal code under which she has been arrested as a “material witness” in an unspecified criminal proceeding.
“Communities all over, outraged by the unjust imprisonment and harsh interrogations of our mother, have been expressing their eagerness to mobilize and send a unified message. As such, we the family of Marzieh Hashemi, are dedicating ourselves towards this noble effort. With the help of some of our most active brothers and sisters, and the guidance of ulama around the globe, we are designating Friday the 25th of January a day of action and protest,” Hashemi’s family wrote in their call for action, which was released on Wednesday.
Rallies are already scheduled to take place in nine countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, Denmark, Australia, Turkey, and Pakistan, Press TV reported.
In New York City, a protest rally is scheduled to be held in Grand Central Station as part of the campaign. Similarly, protesters will gather outside the US Embassy in London to make their voices heard.
Hashemi, a 59-year-old American-born Muslim convert who has lived in Iran for years, was detained at St. Louis Lambert International Airport in Missouri last Sunday while in the US to visit her ill brother and other family members.
She was transferred to a detention facility in Washington, DC, where she was initially forced to remove her hijab and only offered non-halal food.
The FBI has repeatedly declined to comment on her arrest. But the US government has confirmed that she has been arrested as a “material witness.” She appeared in a court on Friday for a second time and is slated to appear before a grand jury on Wednesday, January 23. The court has also appointed her an attorney.
Under "18 U.S. Code § 3144," an individual whose testimony is deemed material to a criminal proceeding can be forcefully seized and held indefinitely if he/she is considered a “flight risk.”
Hashemi’s family have highlighted that law as “controversial” and “a legal loophole,” and have asked people who will rally on the designated date to also protest against it.
“This is not just about our mother. Her case highlights a larger constitutionally legitimized process by way of which people who have not committed a crime can be put in prison through legal means. They can be kept in prison for an indefinite period of time, and all of this is deemed legal and legitimate under US law,” Hashemi’s family argued.
“We believe that it is imperative, especially for marginalized people in the United States of America to understand these controversial laws pertaining to being a ‘material witness’ and other laws that can lead to our detention even if we have done nothing wrong.”
They said “many legal and rights advocacy groups in the United States” also found “the constitutionality of these laws highly problematic,” and said they intended “to assist organizations that are challenging this legal loophole.”
Separately, Hashemi’s elder son, Hossein, told The New York Times by telephone on Tuesday that the American grassroots movement Black Lives Matter and other groups would also join the rallies to demand her mother’s release.
Iran has protested Hashemi’s detention and ill-treatment. On Tuesday, Iran summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran to protest her “illegal” detention.
Iran and the US have had no diplomatic relations since 1980, and the Swiss government represents US interests in Iran.
Separately, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that the detention of the Press TV anchorwoman proved the US was still violating the rights of black people.