A US court has confirmed the detention of African American journalist, Marzieh Hashemi. Her family have released a statement sharing their concern for her treatment and religious rights. Prominent journalists and civil rights activists across the world are calling for her immediate release using the hashtag #FreeMarziehHashemi.
A promiment news anchor, Marzieh Hashemi (Born Melanie Franklin) who was preparing for a documentary on Black Lives Matter activists in Ferguson, has been imprisoned in an unknown facility in Washington DC. On 13th January 2019, Marzieh was arrested by the FBI at St Louis Lambert International Airport and transferred to Washington. After two days she was permitted to contact her family, and informed them of her arrest. Speaking to her daughter, Hashemi mentioned she was shackled and handcuffed, and made to feel like a criminal. Her hijab was removed against her will and a mug shot was forcefully taken. Marzieh also explained to her family that she was denied halal/vegetarian meals, and instead given pork.
Marzieh Hashemi’s children mentioned:
“We are gravely concerned that our mother’s civil and religious rights have been violated. To forcibly remove a woman’s clothing in this manner is a deeply distressing and violating experience. Our mother is a 59-year-old American born, US citizen, who has been living in Iran working as a journalist and often travels home to the United States to visit family and friends. She should be able to do this without fear of her civil and religious rights being violated. We are at a complete loss as to why an internationally recognized journalist would be arrestedu in this manner and call for her immediate release.
Suzanne Nossel, from the group PEN America that promotes free expression in writing, highlighted she is concerned Marzieh Hashemi might have been targeted for her work on the #BlackLivesMatter movement, or for other political reasons.
“Either case would be an egregious violation of democratic norms… If there are other grounds for Hashemi’s detention they must be made clear, otherwise she should be released immediately.”
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group in America have called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI to explain why Marzieh Hashemi has been detained and stripped of her religious and civil rights while held on unspecified grounds. Nihad Awad, the National Executive Director of CAIR declared:
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. There can be no justification for denying an American citizen, or any other person, their basic civil and religious rights.
On 18th January 2019, Marzieh Hashemi presented herself to the Grand Jury at Unite States District Court for the District of Columbia. Marzieh and her family (who have also been subpoenaed) will next be present at the court on Wednesday 23rd January 2019.
An official document released by the court highlights that Hashemi is a “material witness” to an undisclosed investigation, however activists and lawyers around the world have expressed their concerns as the Material Witness statute has historically been used by the Department of Justice to indefinitely incarcerate Muslims. A report by Human Rights Watch indicated that since 9/11, the Department of Justice had deliberately used the law for different purposes and essentially disregarded the constitutional and human rights of the individuals detained, to the extent that the detainees were not informed of any charges against them or permitted access to an attorney to challenge the basis for their detention. A key case that reflects the inhumane treatment Muslims have faced under the witness law statute is Abdullah Al-Kidd v United States et al. This case provides a chronological background on a Muslim American individual that was wrongfully detained under the witness law, yet it was held in the Supreme Court that former Attorney General Ashcroft was not to be held accountable for any abuses endured by Al-Kidd.
Given the information that has been released from the US Courts regarding Hashemi, activists around the world are demanding her immediate release, as she has not been charged with any crime, and her detention is a violation of her constitutional rights. Social media users are actively using the #FreeMarziehHashemi campaign to urge U.S authorities to release Marzieh Hashemi immediately.