Three-time heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali, who just turned 73 in January, has called on Iranian officials to release Jason Rezaian, The Washington Post correspondent who has been imprisoned in Iran since July 2014 for unclear reasons.
Many may remember when the boxing legend travelled to Iraq in 1990 to negotiate the release of 15 United States citizens taken hostage by Saddam Hussein after his invasion of Kuwait. He managed to persuade a man who had openly disregarded the United Nations and the U.S. Government to release hostages after four months in captivity.
In a statement issued Thursday morning through the National Press Club, Ali said: “It is my great hope that the government and judiciary of Iran will end the prolonged detention of journalist Jason Rezaian and provide him with access to all of his legal options.”
The 73-year-old cultural icon’s statement was distributed hours before a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, where Ali Rezaian appealed for his brother’s immediate release.
Jason Rezaian who had been working in Iran as a journalist since 2008, before becoming the Post’s Tehran correspondent in 2012 was arrested at home in Tehran on July 22 with his wife, Iranian reporter Yeganeh Salehi. She was eventually released on bail; but Rezaian, an American-born dual national remains in Tehran’s Evin Prison. He has been detained for more than 230 days.
Rezaian’s family has been pleading for his release and U.S. lawmakers last year urged Secretary of State John Kerry to “prioritize” Rezaian’s case in nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Ali said it is his “great hope” that Iran will end Rezaian’s “prolonged detention” and “provide him with access to all his legal options.”
The NPC said no other Western journalist has been held for as long a time as Rezaian and that until recently he had been denied medical care and a lawyer. It added that charged against Rezaian have never been disclosed or made public.
Ali, a Muslim American, like Rezaian, is battling Parkinson’s disease and was briefly hospitalized in December after suffering a severe urinary tract infection, rarely makes public pronouncements. He commented on the 2013 death of Nelson Mandela, but hasn’t been heard from much since then.
Here is Ali’s statement, in its entirety:
With the Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful
I am sorry that I cannot be physically present to lend my support in person but I pray my words will provide relief to the efforts to secure the release of Jason Rezaian.
Insha’Allah, it is my great hope that the government and judiciary of Iran will end the prolonged detention of journalist Jason Rezaian and provide him with access to all of his legal options. During his time as the Washington Post bureau chief in Tehran, Jason used his gift of writing and intimate knowledge of the country to share the stories of the people and culture of Iran to the world.
To my knowledge Jason is a man of peace and great faith, a man whose dedication and respect for the Iranian people is evident in his work.
I support his family, friends and colleagues in their efforts to obtain his release