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Worldwide Rallies Held Against U.S. Legal System in Wake of Iranian Journalist Detention
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Worldwide Rallies Held Against U.S. Legal System in Wake of Iranian Journalist Detention

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – January 27, 2019

Massive crowds of people gathered in Washington, DC, New York, Austin, Houston, Detroit, and other places across the U.S. on Friday to condemn the FBI's illegal detention of Iranian anchor Marzieh Hashemi, Press TV reported.

Hashemi recounted the ordeal of her time in jail and her mistreatment by the American justice system while addressing the demonstrations:

"It can be called whatever they want to call it, but I was kidnapped from the St. Louis airport. Fortunately my son Reza was with me otherwise who knows what could have happened. You can be made to disappear very easily."

The arrest had a lot to do "with where I live and related to the work I do," Hashemi told the crowds attending the rallies.

Massive rallies have also been held in many cities around the world to protest against the U.S. legal system in the wake of the FBI's imprisonment of the Press TV journalist.

Similar rallies were also held in the UK, Canada, Denmark and Australia, where they slammed U.S. authorities for forcibly removing Hashemi's hijab in custody.

People also gathered outside the U.S. embassy in London, the United Kingdom, to express their anger at the U.S. legal system.

The protesters chanted slogans in support of Hashemi and carried placards that read, "Journalism is not a crime."

Speaking to Press TV, Ahmed Haneef, an Islamic cleric, said, "I think Marzieh Hashemi is a symbol. [She is] a symbol of the dangerous situation Muslims are in or non-Muslims are in, not only in the United States but in many countries of the world where we have been victims of Islamophobia." He criticized the "demonization and the criminalization" of people just because they believe in a particular religion or just because they oppose the United States' efforts to dominate the world.

Nigerians and Pakistanis also held rallies to voice solidarity with the Press TV journalist.

Hashemi, a 59-year-old Muslim convert who has lived in Iran for years, was detained at St. Louis Lambert International Airport in Missouri on January 13 while in the U.S. to visit her ailing brother and other family members, as USA Really reported.

She was transferred via private plane to a detention facility in Washington, DC where she was initially forced to remove her hijab and only offered non-halal food.

The journalist was detained under an obscure, little-used law that allows authorities to arrest a material witness in grand jury proceedings. The U.S. government said Hashemi had been arrested as a “material witness” in an unspecified criminal proceeding and that she faced no charges herself.

But the legal code under which she was detained has been widely slammed as controversial. Under “18 U.S. Code § 3144,” an individual whose testimony is deemed material to a criminal proceeding can be forcefully seized and held indefinitely if he/she is considered a “flight risk.”

According to Press TV, Hashemi was taken to court after spending a night in the facility’s “unbelievable conditions,” where she was incarcerated in solitary confinement next to other people from different nationalities that the FBI had detained for unknown reasons.

Hashemi was ultimately released without charge on January 23 after spending 10 days in prison and undergoing three grand jury hearings.

She was freed after testifying together with her son before a grand jury in District Court in Washington, DC, for a third time on Wednesday morning. Two of her other children have also been subpoenaed to testify in the unspecified case.

To get to the courtroom, the Press TV journalist was forced to climb the stairs while in shackles because of the malfunctioning elevators that authorities had been unable to repair due to the ongoing government shutdown.

“What I realize is how easy it is for them to make someone disappear. If (my son) was not there, anything could have happened to me and no one would have known where I was. And I’m just wondering how many people that this happens to,” Hashemi told RT in an interview.

Hashemi pointed out that during her detention, she was even placed on suicide watch – a fact she only discovered afterwards, from another prisoner. “It concerned me, because I’m thinking maybe they have something up their sleeves here.” She was not allowed to contact anyone for the first 48 hours of her imprisonment.

“It’s mind-boggling that you can be arrested, detained, shackled, not charged with a crime, and I definitely saw it firsthand,” she said, encouraging supporters to take action to “demand an end to this type of activity.”

Hashemi’s ordeal sparked protests in the U.S. and at UN offices in Tehran, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused U.S. authorities of racism in their mistreatment of the journalist. In a Wednesday interview with Al-Alam news network, Zarif said the arrest of Hashemi is a clear violation of freedom of speech, urging the Americans to end this “political game” immediately.

"The arrest is a political and unacceptable move by the U.S. so Americans should put an end to this political play immediately," Zarif noted.

As USA Really wrote, U.S. special agents have been stalking Hashemi for years, at least, since June 19, 2015, when the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted her “case” a special number: 15-cr-75. According to the documents, it was a criminal case: USA vs. Hashemi, according to the conventional naming of cases.

During a live interview with Press TV from Washington on Thursday evening, Hashemi spoke about her experience and how she is resolved to prevent others from being subjected to such mistreatment by the American justice system.

She said she had been "harassed" by American security officers during her previous trips to her homeland, but her detention took everything to a “whole new level.”

“In general, when I travel throughout the United States … I always have to be at the airports three to three-and-a-half hours prior to flight just to make it through all obstacles,” she said.

Illegal detentions and searches are common tactic used by the U.S. authorities against independent media and their journalists. In November, USA Really’s editor-in-chief Alexander Malkevich was detained by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in Washington’s Dulles Airport.

Born Melanie Franklin in New Orleans, Hashemi converted to Islam in 1979 after the Islamic Revolution in Iran and changed her name upon moving there permanently in 2008. She is one of the most recognized news anchors on the English-language Iranian state Press TV network.

Author: USA Really