American-born Iran anchor says she was jailed in US as a warning

The American-born anchorwoman working for Iran’s state television is speaking out after her detainment in a U.S. jail, saying it was warning for her to “watch your step.”

In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Marzieh Hashemi explained that she was unnecessarily detained earlier this month as a material witness in a grand jury investigation in Washington.

The details of the case remain under seal but Hashemi told AP that it had to do with her job and that she now lives in Iran. It did not, she said, have anything to do with terrorism.

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The 59-year-old journalist was detained on Jan. 13 in St. Louis while waiting to board a plane. She had just finished filming a Black Lives Matter documentary and was planning to visit family in New Orleans.

This undated photo provided by Iranian state television's English-language service, Press TV, shows American-born news anchor Marzieh Hashemi at studio in Tehran, Iran.

This undated photo provided by Iranian state television's English-language service, Press TV, shows American-born news anchor Marzieh Hashemi at studio in Tehran, Iran. (AP/Press TV)

According to her interview with the AP, Hashemi was at the gate when she was told that she have been selected for pre-boarding. As she was walking down a jet bridge with her son, she said was met by two FBI agents who informed her that she was to go with them.

Hashemi said she was brought to a hotel where she stayed the night before being transferred to Washington where she appeared before a U.S. district judge the following day.

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Prosecutors argued that Hashemi was a flight risk and needed to be detained.

"I said, 'I'm not running away from anything because I haven't done anything,'" Hashemi told AP. "You had no basis to say I was a flight risk."

She called her detainment unnecessary, adding she would’ve appeared voluntarily and would’ve complied with the federal subpoena.

Federal law allows judges to order witnesses to be detained if the government can prove that their testimony has extraordinary value for a criminal case and that they would be a flight risk and unlikely to respond to a subpoena.

Hashemi appeared before a judge four times during her 10-day detainment and was questioned by prosecutors before the grand jury on three occasions, according to court documents. She said prosecutors appeared to only have "circumstantial" evidence in the case and did not have "anything of any concrete importance."

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At the Washington jail, Hashemi said she was forced to remove her hijab, despite objecting because of her religious beliefs. She was offered a white T-shirt to put on her head. As she was led down a hallway in a facility that houses both male and female inmates, she was told by officers that she could not wear the shirt to cover her head and could only wear it once she arrived at her cell, she said. For several days, her religious dietary restrictions were also not met, she said.

A spokeswoman for the District of Columbia Department of Corrections didn't immediately respond to AP’s request for comment.

"This is not the United States that we want. This is not what we believe in," Hashemi said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.