Supporters of Marzieh Hashemi, an American-born anchor for Iran's state television broadcaster, demonstrate outside the federal courthouse where Hashemi will appear before a U.S. grand jury, on Jan. 23, 2019, in Washington. She is in custody as a material witness. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Muslim groups condemn detention of Iranian broadcaster

(RNS) — Muslim civil rights organizations have joined press freedom and other human rights groups in questioning the FBI's detention of an American-born journalist based in Iran.

Marzieh Hashemi, a U.S. citizen who works as an anchor for Iran's state-run English-language Press TV, was detained on Jan. 13 at St. Louis Lambert International Airport, according to federal court documents made public on Friday (Jan. 18).  Hashemi had been in the U.S. filming a documentary on Black Lives Matter and visiting some relatives.

Hashemi has not accused been accused of a crime. According to court documents, she was taken to Washington, D.C., and is being held as a material witness until her grand jury testimony for an unspecified case is done.

We join her family and others in asking that Marzieh Hashemi be released immediately,” Darakshan Raja, co-director of the D.C.  Justice for Muslims Collective, told Religion News Service. “She has been detained under material witness laws, which have been used post-9/11 to detain Muslims without being charged for a crime, and represent a clear form of due process and civil rights violations.

This undated photo provided by Iranian state television's English-language service, Press TV, shows American-born news anchor Marzieh Hashemi at its studio in Tehran, Iran. (Press TV via AP)

 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Federal law does permit the government to compel testimony in certain circumstances by arresting and detaining witnesses. The government must be able to prove that the testimony is considered “material” to a criminal proceeding and that the witness will likely flee if subpoenaed.

Civil rights watchdogs have noted, however, that the U.S. has misused material witness warrants in the past to evade the requirement of probable cause of criminal conduct, particularly in cases related to Muslims.

Since Sept. 11, the Department of Justice has “deliberately used the law ... to secure the indefinite incarceration of those it has wanted to investigate as possible terrorist suspects” and has left the law “twisted beyond recognition,” according to a 2005 report from Human Rights Watch. Last year, a federal appeals court ruled that misusing material witness warrants is unconstitutional.

Hashemi’s family has also said that she is being denied the right to wear her hijab and is being denied pork-free meals, in violation of her religious rights.

"Law enforcement officials must clarify why they are holding Ms. Hashemi without formal charges and why they have allegedly denied her religious rights while in custody," Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement. "There can be no justification for denying an American citizen, or any other person, their basic civil and religious rights."

Born in New Orleans as Melanie Franklin, Hashemi changed her name after converting to Islam. The Iranian government, which also considers her a citizen of Iran due to her marriage to an Iranian man, has called for Hashemi's "unconditional" release.

Prominent press freedom groups have also denounced the detention.

“The US judicial authorities must announce the charges they plan to bring against this journalist,” said Reza Moini, who heads the Iran desk at Reporters Without Borders. “The opaqueness surrounding her detention is unacceptable. Marzieh Hashemi’s fundamental rights must be guaranteed.”

"We are concerned by the arrest of a journalist for Iranian state TV, Marzieh Hashemi, and call on the U.S. Department of Justice to immediately disclose the basis for her detention for the past five days," said Alexandra Ellerbeck, North America program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment.


  1. They have a point. Holding people without a charge, especially US citizens, is about as clear a violation of due process as one can get.

    BTW anyone who thinks we have to compromise civil liberties to combat terrorism is full of crap. It both enables terrorists and is ineffective. Since 9/11 Civilian courts have a perfect record for convicting terrorists as opposed to the fast and loose due process of military tribunals of 70%.

  2. The best they can demand is a hearing on a writ of habeus corpus.

    If the FBI can’t support the detention, the judge will order her release.

  3. As the article pointed out, it is legal to hold without a charge compel testimony in certain circumstances by arresting and detaining witnesses.

    That scraps “Holding people without a charge, especially US citizens, is about as clear a violation of due process as one can get.”

    Better luck next time.

  4. And the prosecutor should ask, “Marzieh Hashemi, do you believe in the Koran’s directives to kill or maim all infidels?” “Do you believe that the dictates of the Koran take precedent over the laws of the USA? ” Do you believe that Mohammed was a prophet of Allah or a warmongering, misogynist, ex-spice, literate trader who started his life of horror by conquering spice trading cities in an attempt to control the flow of spices such as frankincense, and myrrh? “

  5. No hijab and serving pork. Is she allowed a copybof the Quran? They must have a copy of the Gitmo manual, “How to Handle Suspected Terrorists”.

  6. We’re gonna need more information on this to possibly speculate about what is going on with it.

  7. He appears to be filing charges.

    As it is turning out, since the FBI may have been colluding, he was long a leader in the FBI and is the fox guarding the hen house.

  8. Yes.
    All of the corruption and wrongdoing of the FBI via the FISA courts with links to the Clinton campaign.
    The investigation is the cover up.

  9. It’s an attempt at a cover-up.

    In the long run it may turn out to blow back the other way.

  10. I doubt it. My only hope is trump releases everything before or after the election.

  11. Had the FBI applied the same criterion to Barack Obama they applied to Donald Trump, they would have considered Barack Obama an Iranian agent.

    As the recent reporting on the Covington Catholic Nothing Burger demonstrated, about 40-45% of the public that is paying any attention will believe anything.

    But in the long run truth will win out.

  12. Nope. But valiant effort at deflection here.

    I would love a citation to an actual source making that claim!

  13. Which may explain why Gitmo has such a poor conviction record compared to civilian courts.

  14. Like the “garbanzo tape” that Putin is holding over him.

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