Iran must pay $180 million in damages to Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian — who was imprisoned in the country for eighteen months — and his family, a federal judge ruled on Friday.
Rezaian had travelled to the country while he was the Post‘s senior Iran correspondent, and was detained with his newlywed wife in July 2014. While his wife was released after two months, both were threatened with execution, physical mutilation and dismemberment and placed in solitary confinement.
Rezaian’s confinement came as the Obama administration was trying to negotiate a deal that would see Iran end its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. Rezaian was released in a prisoner swap on January 16, 2016, the same day the nuclear deal was implemented. The Wall Street Journal later revealed that the Obama administration had also delivered $400 million in cash to Iran, reportedly on that same day.
“Holding a man hostage and torturing him to gain leverage in negotiations with the United States is outrageous, deserving of punishment, and surely in need of deterrence,” wrote U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon in his opinion in the case.
Rezaian’s attorney David Bowker had argued that the reporter was “irreparably injured” and held as a bargaining chip to trade him “for concessions by the United States.” Bowker told the Post that Rezaian’s family had originally sought $1 billion in punitive damages to compel Iran “to recalculate the costs and benefits” of taking hostages.
President Trump has since revoked the nuclear deal made by Obama, and has imposed economic sanctions on the country.
Currently, Iran is in the midst of protests that started when the government announced a rise in the price of gasoline, but have since turned against banks and regime security forces. Scores of protesters have been killed by security forces according to Amnesty International, and the Iranian government has almost completely shut off internet access across the country.