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Letter to the President - Kaine, Coons Call On Trump To Increase Efforts To Secure Release Of Americans Wrongfully Detained In Iran


Location: Washington, DC

Dear President Trump,

We understand that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will this week meet with some of the families of Americans held hostage in Iran. While we are encouraged by your Administration's emphasis on assisting detained Americans and their families, we urge you and your national security team, including Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs O'Brien, to continue to make use of all the tools at your disposal to secure the release of all American citizens and legal permanent residents held unjustly around the world.

Iran has unlawfully detained several United States citizens, including Siamak Namazi, Baquer Namazi, Xiyue Wang, Morad Tahbaz, and Michael White, as well as United States legal permanent residents Nizar Zakka and Karan Vafadari. This month marks the twelfth year that Robert Levinson, a U.S. citizen and retired agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, disappeared in Iran. In May 2018, you called on Iran to stop its unjust detention of foreigners, including U.S. citizens. However, we are still waiting for the first U.S. citizen held by Iran to be freed on your watch.

The stories are heartbreaking. Mr. Namazi is 82 years old -- members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps imprisoned him after his arrival in Iran in 2016 to visit his imprisoned son Siamak. Xiyue Wang, a student at Princeton University, was conducting doctoral research in Iran's National Archives when the Iranian authorities seized him, convicted him in a closed trial, and sentenced him to 10 years. Their families and supporters have called attention to their situation in an open letter to world leaders, highlighting the inhumane conditions of their detention and the denial of fundamental rights including due process. These American citizens and residents have been the subject of various Congressional hearings, resolutions, statements, and legislation.

The lives of these Americans are at risk. The United States needs to send a strong signal to Iran that it must stop taking Americans hostage. We urge you to use all leverage possible to intervene on their behalf. For example, it is our understanding that several countries including Iraq, India, and China are seeking conditional waivers from U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. As part of these discussions, we strongly request you ask these nations to help secure the release of Americans and U.S. legal permanent residents held in Iran.

We also need the support of the international community in these efforts. We understand that there are at least 12 other nations whose nationals are unlawfully held by Iran. We urge the Administration to form a multinational task force to help find solutions to secure their release.

To work best in tandem with you, we request a staff-level briefing no later than April 30 by Administration officials to review all efforts to secure the release of Americans held in Iran. This briefing should include the status of forming a multinational task force, an update on the work of the FBI's Hostage Recovery Cell, and correspondence with our Swiss protecting power. Transparency is essential, and Congress wants to help your Administration take concrete steps to secure the release of U.S. persons unlawfully detained in Iran and elsewhere.


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