U.S. Demands Release of American Detainees

On March 10, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Iran to release “all wrongfully detained Americans being held in Iran.” He warned that the United States would hold Iran accountable if any of the American prisoners died from coronavirus, which had spread to at least three Iranian prisons by February 25. “Our response will be decisive,” Pompeo said. Pompeo added that Iran’s decision to grant furloughs to 70,000 prisoners showed “its ability to grant clemency and show mercy.” At least six Americans, including dual nationals, have been detained by Iran.  

Related Analysis:Coronavirus Spreads in Iran’s Prisons 

Tehran responded by calling for the release of Iranian detainees held in the United States. “The state of America’s prisons and their health situation are worrying ... we are ready to bring the jailed Iranians in America back to Iran,” government spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on March 11. “American officials should pay serious attention to the health conditions of the Iranians who have been taken hostage in America. They have been imprisoned without any legal basis.” 

Related Analysis: Detainees in Iran and the U.S.

On March 10, the United Nations pressed Iran to release all political prisoners. “A number of dual and foreign nationals are at real risk if they have not ... got it [coronavirus], they are really fearful of the conditions,” said Javaid Rehman, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran. “I have recommended to the state of the Islamic Republic of Iran to release all prisoners on temporary release." The following is a statement by Secretary Pompeo. 


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 

The United States calls on the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately release on humanitarian grounds all wrongfully detained Americans being held in Iran. The United States will hold the Iranian regime directly responsible for any American deaths. Our response will be decisive. 

Reports that COVID-19 has spread to Iranian prisons are deeply troubling and demand nothing less than the full and immediate release of all American citizens. Their detention amid increasingly deteriorating conditions defies basic human decency. 

The Iranian regime recently released 70,000 prisoners due to the outbreak of COVID-19, demonstrating its ability to grant clemency and show mercy. Yet it continues to unjustly detain several American citizens, without cause or justification. 

Any nation considering whether to provide Iran with humanitarian assistance because of COVID-19 should seek a reciprocal humanitarian gesture by the regime: release all wrongly detained dual and foreign national citizens. This request is well within the regime’s power to grant. 

The United States will not rest until all Americans wrongfully detained abroad are returned home.