US judge orders Iran to pay $180m over detention of spy working as reporter

Press TV – A US federal judge has ordered Tehran to pay $180 million over the 18-month detention of a Washington Post correspondent found guilty of espionage and gathering classified information in Iran.

Columbia District Court judge Richard J. Leon awarded $150 million jointly to Jason Rezaian, along with his brother and mother, according to a Friday court order.

The remaining $30 million was given to the individuals based on alleged personal damages.

Reuters reported that the verdict was given to compensate for their “pain and suffering as well as economic loss”.

The news agency described the ruling as being “largely symbolic”.

The money is expected to be paid from frozen Iranian assets and money collected through US sanctions targeting Iran.

Rezaian was arrested in Iran on July 22, 2014 on charges of espionage, collaborating with hostile governments, gathering classified information and disseminating propaganda against the Islamic Republic.

Late in 2015, Iranian officials announced that he had been found guilty of espionage and faced imprisonment.

Rezaian, however, was released on January 16, 2016, the same date when the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was implemented.

Iran released the convict along with three other convicts as part of a prisoner swap securing the release of seven Iranians held in the US.

The Friday ruling marks one of the latest instances in which of US courts have ordered Iran to pay damages, a pretext for appropriating Iranian financial assets, for dubious charges.

Iran has denounced US seizures of its frozen assets as “highway robbery” and has taken the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague.

Iran has also on numerous occasions proposed prisoner swaps with Washington on humanitarian grounds.

The case of Iranian stem cell scientist Masoud Soleimani represents one of the latest cases of Iranians being imprisoned in the US on questionable allegations.

During his sole court appearance on May 14, 2019, Soleimani was charged with trying to transfer vials of growth hormone used in medical research to Iran.

The substance is readily available on the market and not subject to sanctions, however.

The sanctions, along with Washington’s numerous attempts at freezing Iranian overseas assets, come as the US has vowed to wage a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Tehran after it unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iranian officials have repeatedly condemned the measures as constituting acts of “economic terrorism” targeting the Iranian people, contradicting Washington’s usual claims of upholding human rights.