Will U.S.-Iran ‘thaw’ produce springtime fruit for hostages?

Breaking News: Confirmation of earlier post below!

Just in from CNN International ‘Security Blog’ By Jennifer Rizzo

Iran’s foreign minister talks of possible relief for jailed Americans

zarif presserA reduced sentence for two Americans jailed in Iran may be possible, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Jim Sciutto.

“We have various clemency measures in Iran that can be introduced, happened in the past, can be introduced again in these cases,” Zarif said in the interview this week from Davos, Switzerland.

Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, was arrested in Iran in August 2011 and held on espionage charges. The Obama administration has said he is not a spy.

Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American pastor is also jailed, accused of proselytizing Christianity during a trip to Iran. He was accused of attempting to undermine the Iranian government and endangering national security. Abedini’s family says he is behind bars in a dangerous prison.

President Barack Obama pushed for the release of Abedini and Hekmati when he spoke on the phone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in September.

Still, Zarif said the decision for clemency does not rest with him. “That is something for the judiciary to decide,” he said.

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Returning to our main article posted earlier today:

A few days ago CBS News did a report on Robert Levinson, an American hostage held in Iran since march, 2007. Then in the past two days the NY Times did an article updating Amir Hekmati’s plight. And suddenly the wife of Saeed Abedini received some encouraging news also. More on these developments in a moment.

As background, during the past 34 years since the U.S. Embassy takeover in 1979, the United States and Iran have not been on speaking terms. Officially, that is.* There have been no Embassies or Consulates, no Ambassadors and no cultural exchanges – just simmering hostility and distrust, bi-directionally.

Iran hostage 1979 3FreeAllThree.com will be doing a more extensive historical article which will be out in few day especially for those under 50 to grasp what it was like for America and the 52 hostages that were held 444 days ‘back then.’ For now, let’s just agree that people over 50 with their memories in tact will immediately recall the indignation they and almost everyone felt regarding the Embassy takeover ‘crisis’ as it was called.

We remember waiting and watching for days. It was all over TV and in everyone’s conversations. Days turned into weeks, and then into months with no new developments day after day. Most over 50 will also recall the feckless administration  of Jimmy Carter and the general malaise that fell over the country.

For example, fuel oil was expensive and in short supply. Mr. Carter suggested Americans lower thermometers in their homes and offices. Workers wore extra layers and heavy sweaters. Typists wore gloves with the fingertips cut off because their hands were so cold. The suggestions were mandatory at all Federal facilities. That was the late 1970’s in a nutshell!

After a failed military rescue attempt, the Iranians scattered the hostages around the country so that future rescue attempts would be impossible. However, later by the summer of 1980 they were all returned to Tehran for reasons unknown.

jubilant hostages come homeFrom November 1980 until their release a few months later, the hostages stayed at the Teymour Bakhtiari mansion in Tehran, where they were finally provided tubs, showers, hot and cold running water, better food and medical care.

After their return, the hostages speculated that the Iranians did not want it to appear they were physically abused in any way, but in fact they were. Iran even had the audacity to refer to them as ‘guests.’  (More on the 1979-81 Embassy takeover in a future post here at FreeAllThree.com.)

To finish this story, on January 20, 1981, at the exact moment Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th President of the United States the wheels literally began to turn. While Reagan completed his 20-minute inaugural address, the 52 American hostages were released by Iran into U.S. custody through an intermediary nation and flown out of the country.

We said all this to say that tiny, seemingly insignificant, movements in Iran may eventually lead to bigger developments later on.

We don’t want to raise false hopes, but one cannot deny that since the November 2013 U.S.-Iran ‘thaw’ and the beginning of official face-to-face talks with Iran, there has been a flurry of diplomatic contact and activity.

Many today, this writer included, still disagree with the U.S. tactic of not insisting on Pre-Conditions to the talks with Iran before they began. The U.S. lost a huge bargaining advantage by saying, in effect, “OK, let’s just sit down and talk.” There was no reduction or cessation of any part of Iran’s nuclear program. And there was no significant humanitarian gesture of releasing the three American hostages held in Iran today.

In fact, the opposite occurred through the entirety of 2013! We know that the Iranian nuclear program was spinning full speed ahead and actually expanded. And the new agreement, signed in November, 2013 did not take effect until January 20, 2014 allowing more time to add new equipment including the so-called new-generation centrifuges.

Rouhani WEF big smiles 1 23 14Furthermore, we know in fact that one hostage-prisoner, Saeed Abedini, was actually moved to an even worse prison after President Obama’s 15-minute telephone call with Rouhani. Abedini was sent into a situation where he had to fend for himself among Iran’s most violent criminals, many of them murderers. That’s why this writer isn’t too impressed with the ‘charm offensive’ of Iran’s new President Rouhani.  We are waiting for actions consistent with his words!

*FreeallThree.com produced a 7-year timeline in graphical format which refutes the Obama Administration’s and John Kerry’s assertions that since the U.S. had no direct lines of communications with Iran, they were not in a position to ask for the men’s release.

The timeline begins in 2007 – when Robert Levinson was kidnapped in Iran – to 2014. Prisoner swaps were in fact discussed and carried out…for others prisoners! Not Levinson, Hekmati or Abedini! Go to this link to view timeline: http://wp.me/s49SUn-1688

Pastor Saeed Abedini

saeed in parkIt was announced recently that Pastor Saaed was moved within the prison to an area of political prisoners and where he has already been examined by a Dr. There is much more that is needed, but this is a tiny step in the right direction as we see it!

Here is a brief statement from Saeed’s wife Naghmeh and an article by her legal representative Jordan Sekulow of ACLJ.org and the Be Heard Project:

Naghmeh wrote on Facebook, “[Saeed’s] parents in Iran were able to visit him today. We would appreciate your continued prayers for his health and release from Iranian prison.”

Here is the link to Sekulow’s article, American Pastor Saeed Abedini Moved to Political Prisoner Ward in Deadliest Prison in Iran – Health Concerns Grow.”

“American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been wrongfully imprisoned in Iran for more than a year because of his Christian faith, has been moved from the murderer ward to the political prisoner ward in Rajai Shahr Prison.

Make no mistake; Pastor Saeed is still in the deadliest prison in Iran facing deteriorating medical conditions.  This is the first positive step, however slight, since his transfer from Evin Prison last November.

For the first time in six weeks, Pastor Saeed’s Iranian family was able to visit with Pastor Saeed today in his new prison ward.  No reason was given for the move and his family reports that this new ward,  still within the dangerous walls of Rajai Shahr, represents a slight improvement in his treatment. Pastor Saeed is now receiving better meals.

His family reports that Pastor Saeed’s medical problems continue to worsen.  He continues throwing up on a regular basis and is still experiencing significant pain in his abdomen.  Since being moved within the prison, Pastor Saeed was able to see a prison doctor who was very concerned about his internal injuries. The prison doctor recommended that he receive surgery and provided him medication to ease his pain.

Pastor Saeed sustained internal injuries from beatings he endured in Evin prison early in his imprisonment.  Those injuries have gone largely untreated, and when Pastor Saeed was transferred to Rajai Shahr, Iranian authorities refused to give him the medication he had been prescribed.  Though Saeed was provided pain medication recently, Saeed has still been denied the medication that was previously prescribed for his internal injuries.”

Read more: http://aclj.org/iran/american-pastor-saeed-abedini-moved-political-prisoner-ward-in-deadliest-prison-iran-health-concerns-grow

Amir Hekmati

amior smallHere is the NY Times article on Amir Hekmati: “New Push Is Made to Free an American While Iran Is at the Negotiating Table”

By RICK GLADSTONE and NICK CUMMING-BRUCE JAN. 22, 2014  NY Times

“Advocates for a former Marine imprisoned in Tehran more than two years ago are seeking to use a diplomatic window created by the temporary nuclear agreement with Iran to gain his release.

In a letter to President Obama released on Wednesday, four top former American defense and security officials urged “immediate action” to expedite the release of the Marine, Amir Hekmati, who has been held in Evin Prison with no publicly disclosed charges against him.

“Mr. Hekmati has committed no crime,” read the letter, signed by William S. Cohen, a former secretary of defense; Gen. Peter Pace, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. James L. Jones, a former national security adviser; and Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, a former allied commander in Europe. They wrote that Mr. Hekmati had “conducted his life with unyielding honor and courage.”

The letter followed the official start on Monday of a six-month accord between Iran and world powers in the protracted dispute over the country’s nuclear energy program, which the Iranians insist is peaceful despite widespread suspicions that it is a cover for developing a nuclear weapons capability.

Under the temporary agreement, Iran halted most uranium enrichment in exchange for limited relief from Western sanctions. The accord was intended to allow diplomats time to negotiate a permanent solution to the dispute, one of the biggest obstacles to improvement in an Iranian-American relationship fraught with decades of mutual hostility.

“As Iran and the United States attempt a formal accord in the next six months, now is the perfect time for the release of Mr. Hekmati,” the letter reads. “Freeing him is indeed in both nations’ best interests.”

Mr. Hekmati, 30, an American of Iranian descent from Flint, Mich., was taken into custody while on a visit to see his maternal grandmother and other relatives in 2011. He was accused of espionage, tried and sentenced to death, but the verdict was overturned and a new trial was ordered in March 2012. That trial has never happened, and the Iranian judiciary has never explained why he remains incarcerated.

His family has repeatedly said Mr. Hekmati is innocent and has pleaded for his release so he can return home while his father, stricken with brain cancer, is alive.

amir familyDan Kildee, [photo left, with Amir’s family] Mr. Hekmati’s Democratic congressional representative, who has made the effort to free him a priority, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that the letter was part of a broader effort to raise attention to the plight of Mr. Hekmati, whose lack of access to legal counsel in Iran has illustrated what critics call its harsh and blatantly arbitrary justice system. The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has said Mr. Hekmati has been deprived of his rights.

“This letter is another important statement that there are people across the country who feel strongly about this,” Mr. Kildee said.

Mr. Hekmati is one of two, and possibly three, Americans in Iranian custody. The others are Saeed Abedini, a pastor who was sentenced in January 2013 to an eight-year prison term, accused of unlawfully creating a network of Christian churches in private Iranian homes, and Robert A. Levinson, an American intelligence operative and retired F.B.I. agent who has been missing for seven years.

American officials have said privately they believe that Mr. Levinson is in the custody of a group tied to Iranian religious leaders. Iran’s government has maintained it knows nothing of his whereabouts or fate.

American officials have also said that the imprisonment of United States citizens in Iran is among the issues that have been raised in the negotiations over the nuclear dispute, which are expected to resume in the coming weeks.”

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/world/middleeast/new-push-is-made-to-free-an-american-while-iran-is-at-the-negotiating-table.html?_r=1

[Note: Emphases above were added]

Robert “Bob” Levinson

bob l profFreeallthree.com published a video link yesterday to a CBS News report that aired over recent days.

Christine Levinson, wife of the former FBI agent who disappeared seven years ago in Iran, revealed new details about his work that she hopes will bring him home. The family’s Attorney, David McGee, also made comments in the video that may be of interest to all concerned.

The link (below) is here in case you missed it yesterday. It is well worth viewing by supporters and family members of all three hostages. There may be some clues, taken together with the developments above, to a new strategy in the works.

Again, we want to caution against unfounded hopes or expectations. Much still needs to be done. Pressure still needs to be applied on The President, mainly, and Congressional members who are actively working for the release of these three men.

Remember, the tiniest crack just might be the place where a door is opened. And as far as ‘springtime fruit’ is concerned, keep in mind that Spring lasts until June 20.  That’s two weeks before July 4th in America – the day we celebrate Freedom!

Screenshot 2014-01-22 19.52.50

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqE_NQVsLWw   (2:52) CBS news

Daniel

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