Twitter Calls On US To #FreeMarziehHashemi As Lawyers Attempt To Unseal Case

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Above Photo: Top Photo | This undated photo provided by Iranian Press TV, shows its American-born news anchor Marzieh Hashemi. On Friday, Press TV reported that its American anchorwoman detained in the U.S. will appear in court in Washington. Press TV via AP

One may be inclined to think that the arrest of Hashemi on Sunday would infuriate those who uphold the sanctity of the fourth estate. But Hashemi, a black American Muslim woman who works for Iran’s state-funded Press TV, is no friend of the establishment media.

American journalist Marzieh Hashemi was arrested on Sunday by the FBI as a witness in a criminal case with no further information provided. On Friday, a motion was introduced to at a DC court to unseal proceedings in her case in an apparent effort to shed some light on what has become an international incident shrouded in mystery.

Records reveal that Hashemi was also in court on Tuesday. Her son was also asked to make an appearance, but it is not clear for what purpose.

Since President Donald Trump came into office after railing against “fake news” during the campaign, the media in the United States has been on the defensive, portraying journalists as the guardians of democracy. Verbal attacks on the press from the president have spurred no shortage of outcry, making press freedom a recurring rallying cry during the Trump era.

Given this context, one may be inclined to think that the arrest of Hashemi on Sunday would infuriate those who uphold the sanctity of the fourth estate. But Hashemi, a black American Muslim woman who works for Iran’s state-funded Press TV, is no friend of the establishment media. A critic of apartheid Israel, police brutality and the surveillance of Muslims in the U.S., Marzieh’s case is being largely ignored.

While it has gotten some coverage in mainstream media, publications have been careful to include a heavy dose of anti-Iran messaging in order to distract from the injustices in the case of the jailed American anchor.

In the vacuum left by the mainstream media’s sidelining of Hashemi’s story, Twitter users are flooding the platform with tweets calling to #FreeMarziehHashemi.

Hashemi has lived in Iran decades, according to Press TV. She was traveling in the U.S. to visit her sick brother and film a documentary on the Black Lives Matter movement when she was arrested without charge. She has been held at an undisclosed facility around Washington, DC since Sunday and is due to testify as a material witness in a sealed case before a grand jury, alongside her children on Friday.

In the U.S., government prosecutors must prove that a person has “extraordinary value” in a criminal investigation before the judge will allow that person to be arrested. The constitutionality of the practices has never been meaningfully tested,” Ricardo J. Bascuas, a law professor at the University of Miami, told the Associated Press. “The government only relies on it when they need a reason to arrest somebody but they don’t have one.”

U.S. authorities have allegedly made Hashemi remove her hijab and wear short-sleeved shirts, forcing her to violate her Islamic faith. According to Press TV, Hashemi is “being offered only pork as a meal and not even bread.”

In the U.S., ham sandwiches are a staple of jail food. Muslims have repeatedly sued prisons and jails in the U.S. over their refusal to provide halal meals.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the U.S. – called on authorities to “cease violating 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,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said. “There can be no justification for denying an American citizen, or any other person, their basic civil and religious rights.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif vowed to continue looking after Hashemi as she is also an Iranian citizen. The top diplomat called her a “famous journalist” and her arrest a “very clear affront to freedom of expression; a political abuse of an innocent individual.”

Hashemi’s colleague at Press TV recalled: “we used to always talk about the issues in the UK and the U.S. I’d be talking about the problems in the UK and she’d be talking about the problems in the U.S.… the biggest problem now is to get Marzieh to come home.”

Around the world, people have expressed solidary with Marzieh during this precarious time for the veteran news anchor. The Islamic Movement in Nigeria called for her immediate release, rallying with big banners featuring her likeness and reading “#FreeMarziehHashemi.”

One Twitter user wrote that the U.S. “messed with the wrong woman! Marzieh is the sister of a couple of billion people around the world that you will not be able to silence!”

The pictures attached to that tweet appears to show an outpouring of solidarity from individuals in the U.S., Lebanon, Kashmir and in Iran.

  • Dawn Wolfson

    I read today that she was freed and is with her family.