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tv   Hearing on American Hostages in Iran  CSPAN  March 13, 2019 6:51am-8:03am EDT

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they want to have greater economic growth. >> watch afterwards sunday night at 9 pm eastern on c- span2. next, a hearing examines you wish nationals currently being held in iran. with testimony from three relatives of the hostages. they spoke on the impact their loved ones situation head on the family. held by the healths house foreign affairs committee this is one hour and 10 minutes. >> this hearing will come to order. i start by asking consent that the gentleman, mr. waltz be over there to sit in today's hearing. so ordered. welcome. this hearing entitled the status of american hostages in iran will allow numbers of the
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families to share information about their loved ones who remain imprisoned or missing in iran. a hearing will have self -- committee and advance efforts to bring detained american citizens and legal residents home. without objection all members may have five days to submit for the record. subject to the rules, i will offer an opening statement and then turn it over to the ranking member, mr. wilson for his opening statement. i want to welcome eyewitnesses. am heartbroken to see you back at this table. i thank each of you for your courage and for your advocacy. it is my goal to have this be the last hearing like this that we do together. i want to acknowledge all the families, and family members here today in the audience and if you would, i would ask you to stand.
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please know that we see you and support you and we thank you. thank you for being here. you may be seated. i think the ranking member for his partnership in conjunction with today's hearing we are introducing a number of related legislative efforts. we welcome the support of all members of the subcommittee. saturday will mark the 12th anniversary of the disappearance of robert. he was last seen at his hotel on march 9 2007, he is a patriot. he devoted 30 years to serving his country. first with the dea his country. first at the dea and then a quarter century with the fbi. bob is a husband of four years. the father of seven, grandfather of six. five of whom he has never met. bob is my constituent on the part of our community back in coral springs florida.
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bob is not at home enjoying his retirement and family because of iran. in the days after bob's disappearance, iranian state tv reported he was at government custody. repeated persistence. on behalf of the levinson family for a decade, if iran doesn't have bob, they know who does and where to find him. bob levinson is the longest held american hostage. taking accountability to strengthen government policy and hostagetaking, and authorizing sanctions for those engaging in hostagetaking. today we are joined by bob's wife christina and three of his seven children, sarah dan and
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doug. we thank them for their strength and advocacy. levinson's over the past nine years in congress, they are remarkable, and grateful -- i'm grateful to know them and i wish i didn't have to know them under these circumstances. we must not convene another hearing were reset across a member of this family. foreign nationals holding citizens hostage should not be tolerable by any nation. today we hear about the horrific conditions has brother and father have faced in 2015 and 2016 respectively. followed by his father bacher, former united nations official in his 80s. bacher's health has gradually deteriorated since his detention.
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they were sentenced to 10 years in prison at a sham trial. bacher should not spend the rest of his life in prison. they must be released immediately, and return to their family. the subcommittee first heard from omar sacher when he was still in high school. omar's father is eight serving permanent resident, he is an i.t. professional invited to iran to participate in an i.t. conference. he was invited to the country and then detained. he has been in prison since 2015, and his difficult state this weekend. he was sentenced in a sham trial in 2016. these families are not the only families suffering there are more americans that arrive. joo wang is a doctoral student, he was arrested on bogus charges and sentenced to 10 years in iran.
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i know that just months ago, aaron also arrested michael white a u.s. navy veteran in july. white was beaten, and still does not know if any charges are filed against him. white is a former cancer patient and his health is worsening. furthermore, there are canadians and brits detained in iran, it is disgusting, the way that his regime disregards the human rights of its own people, and of foreign nationals. hostagetaking is a violation of international law. for the levinson's, they have now worked with three u.s. administration's, the rest of the families are now a second, they encountered the same problems time after time, well- meaning officials at bureaucratic hurdles. geopolitical shifts in our relation with iran, and worst of all being left behind when others come home. this initiation has taken pride in its ability to bring americans home, i'm concerned the withdrawal from the gg pla will heighten lack of contact with iranian officials will
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slow efforts to return american officials to their families. each of these families, hear their stories, understand their suffering, and then, take bold actions to return their loved ones. i will turn it over to the ranking member, mister wilson. >> thank you chairman ted deutch. i want to thank you for holding this important hearing today. i'm grateful to work with you on this subcommittee, you have long fought for americans unjustly held in iran and i have been particularly inspired by your hard work highlighting the case of your constituents robert levinson who disappeared in iran in 2007. sadly today is the 12th anniversary of his disappearance. i hope that together we can continue the bipartisan tradition of the committee of elevating the tragic cases, as you and the former chairman of
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the subcommittee, ross latham has been so successful in the past. ms. levinson, mister mnemosyne, thank you for being here today to share the stories of your loved ones, none of us understand what you and your families go through every single day. your testimony will give congress a small window into the unimaginable reality you face each day. iran is currently holding at least eight u.s. nationals on trumped up charges that amount hostagetaking. at least nine other individuals from british, french, australian, and canadian nationalities are also being held. this is not the first time the subcommittee has held a hearing on iran's hostages. iran's taking of hostages in exchange for political or financial concessions is morally reprehensible and symbolic of iran's outrageous
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disregard for international law and basic human decency. with the regime's designation as a foremost state sponsor of terrorism in the world. we need to see additional pressure and sanctions specifically against iranian individuals and entities responsible for detaining the family members of our witnesses here today. iran has been taking hostages as a matter of policy, and we must force around his changes behavior. we need to see an intense concerted effort from congress and is a decision to seek the release of our americans being held in iran. i am grateful to join chairman deutsch as the lead republican on two important pieces of legislation introduced today including a resolution that will be calling for the immediate release of mister levinson, a mock of ozzie, and
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sacher. all three and other u.s. citizens, legal permanent residents and foreign nationals who are being held in iran. the other crucial measure that will be introduced, for or complicit in the unlawful detention abroad, it is time for erratic and other regimes to pay the price for taking american hostages. taking up bills as soon as possible and i know they will with chairman deutsch. thank you again for your extraordinary and brave witnesses, we look forward to your testimony. i yield back. >> thank you mister wilson i will introduce the witnesses, mister -- mrs. christina levinson is the wife of levinson. mister omar sacher is the son
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-- mrs. levinson you are recognized. without objection your written statements will be made a part of the record. turn your microphone on? >> which button okay, sorry. mister chairman, ranking member and testing with members of this committee. my name is christine levinson, i am the wife of robert bob levinson and american held by the iranian government. my husband is the longest held hostage in american history. if i had my choice, i would not be sitting here before you. to give the testimony i'm about to give. i would be sitting at home with my husband by my side. i am only here out of necessity. my husband bob has been a hostage for 12 years. despite trying to get him home
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by every means possible i am absolutely no closer than i was when he first went missing on march 9 2007. i hold the iranian government responsible but i believe the u.s. government is at fault as well. bob was taken nearly 12 years ago to this day, since that time my family and i have had no direct contact with him. a few years ago we received a video of him as a hostage pleading for help of the united states government. then, we received photos of him wearing an orange jumpsuit. we have been unable to obtain any information on what needs to be done to return bob home. all the facts of this case tell us that the iranian authorities kidnapped my husband. i have been to the island where he was taken. i believe it would be
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impossible for the iranian government do not know what happened to bob. we have confirmed he made to his hotel on march 8, 2007, and left the hotel the next day, but his name was nowhere to be found on the passenger manifest for the flight returning to dubai. additionally, the fbi assessment of the video and photos we received years later concluded that the iranian government had to have developed and sent them to us. the fbi has a $5 million award that remains unclaimed. the evidence is so conclusive that the united nations released an opinion in 2016 holding iran responsible for about continued deprivation of liberty yet iran has pled ignorance over and over again with absolutely no consequences from the u.s. my families dreams of reuniting with bob continue to remain just dreams. we believe he is alive and we continue to receive reports
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that he is alive. at this time, there is mounting urgency for his health and well- being. every moment is of the essence for bob, who turned 71 this saturday. after three very different presidential administrations, we are no closer to bringing bob home than we were when we started. we have nothing. there have been a some dedicated people from various government agencies on the front line of bob's case working to get him home. we are deeply grateful to them. at the same time, we have experienced shocking dysfunction from our other officials. it became clear to me early on that major government bodies were not even talking to each other about the case. in the past, statements and mrs. spencer and businesses -- misstatements to u.s. officials about u.s. officials
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questioning whether he is in iran have undercut efforts to hold iran accountable. we know this because iranian authorities have thrown the strong statements back in our faces. the iranians still regularly point to a statement made by the white house in error several years ago that bob was not in iran. that was wrong but the u.s. government gave iran an excuse not to send bob home. and in january, 2016, when other american hostages were released, and bob was left behind, but states government let aaron get away with it. my husband served this country tirelessly for decades, he deserves better from us and from our government. in addition to being a patriot, bob is an incredible husband and father, we have raised seven children together. when our youngest daughter gets married in just two months, it will be the last daughter he has the opportunity to walk down the aisle. and everyone knows how important that is to a dad.
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not a day or week goes by that i don't get a phone call from one of my children saying how much they missed bob and struggle without him. it is a living nightmare. we wonder endlessly what conditions he is going through. by being away from anyone he knows and loves with absolutely no human rights, what kind of helmet to be living in, but both our governments and iranian authorities have been allowed to live in for so long. i want to close my testimony by asking you to imagine how devastated you would feel being ripped away from your family with no contact from your loved ones, and no contact with the outside world. my husband has been held captive for 4381 days, that's 12 years without his family. imagine how alone he must feel. we need your help. today
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congressman deutsch and sedatives menendez and rubio introduced the bob -- robert levinson hostage recovery hostagetaking accountability act. i cannot thank him enough for their support for bob in our family. i hope this will be something to bring bob home. when saturday's anniversary passes and the media shifts, a different issue will take priority and we will again feel like we are bearing the cements burden alone. without you we can succeed. please help my family to get bob home, thank you. >> thank you mrs. levinson. mister namazi, your. >> mister chairman and visiting with members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to testify today. i sit before you in desolation and disbelief that overthrew a half years into my families indescribable anguish, both my 80-year-old ailing father and
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47-year-old brother continue to unjustly and cruelly languishing around with tenure prison sentences. for reasons i do not understand my innocent family was targeted by iran's revolutionary guard and are being used as hostages. since this nightmare began, my family has faced the ire of a relentless and sustained campaign of cruelty, hate, suffering, lies, and horrors, which continues until today. i am here today however because we must emphasize that the situation for my family and ill father especially is critical and swiftly heading towards an irreversible tragedy unless something is done or just notes assertively. i am here today to inform the trepidation, the u.s. congress, the united nations and anyone at all who can help me save the life of my father and brother.
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since my father's unjust imprisonment in february 2016, he has been hospitalized eight times, two of which required emergency surgeries. my father is only rushed to the hospital with his health reaches critical situations and often request for help are ignored causing severe harm. my father was placed under confinement and subject to severe psychological torment. while my father is currently on a restricted temporary medical furlough, his health continues to decline. in fact, the rate of deterioration is accelerating daily. aside from his already weakened heart and related elements which continue to deteriorate, he has been recently diagnosed with epilepsy as well is a 70% blockage of main arteries leading to his brain significantly increasing the risk of a stroke. my father is getting weaker every day, and cannot take a few steps without his knees buckling under him at a loss of
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balance. it seems every day a new element unleashes itself on my frail father. we live in constant fear that at any moment my father will have his temporary medical furlough revoked and be dragged back to prison. it is due to this fear that i reluctantly have been keeping a lower profile and drawing less attention to our plates but as a capable family member living in freedom i must do what i can to save my beloved father and brother. i know -- can no longer keep quiet. the painful realities of my father is dying. he needs proper medical attention outside of around and is living on borrowed time. unless he is allowed to leave urgency i i fear desperate circumstances will turn tragic. i have begged repeatedly for the iranian government to allow my sick father to leave iran. we don't want my father to leave iran in a coma, or worse, dead. the situation is also terrible for my innocent brother, who has been languishing in prison
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since october of 2000 13. mister chairman going against all values that we start for as americans, the prior administration in explicitly and unforgivably left him behind the 2016, when it brought other american hostages home. at this time, a promise made by the iranians to release my brother was provided license to leave an american behind in the name of the greater deal. while we know how that calculation turned out for my family not only was my brother not released, but my father was also arrested after being lured back to visit my brother, shattering the lives that we could have imagined. i spent a lot of time still wondering how our lives would have been so different today had my brother not been abandoned in january 2016. but my father and brother are
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innocent and are being used as pawns of hostages. my father has spent his entire life serving humanity between decades working with unicef and the most dangerous parts of the world. growing up my brother and i missed having my dad around terribly but we understood the importance of his unitarian mission. it is because of his impeccable record with unicef at the un secretary-general, unicef, and hundreds of un staff privately and publicly reached out to the highest levels of the iranian government to release my father on humanitarian grounds. my brother followed in my brothers his father's footsteps serving humanity in his most recent efforts he published a detailed report in 2013 identified the negative effect of u.s. sanctions on medical equipment reaching the iranian people. in due to his in part due to his efforts, the restaurant allows more medicine to reach around. i have asked trump and estrogen officials to advocate for my family for ongoing hostage affairs, and i am glad there is
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finally a person responsible for coordinating and muting the efforts to bring home hostages like my family. i am grateful to robert and his team are working incredibly hard at this. however, the reality is that for the two years after president trump's inauguration, at least to me, it seems that we are not any closer to bringing hostages home. i'd do not understand the politics involved between our country and around, but what i do know is that whatever has been tried so far has not worked. i strongly believe that only through direct engagement, the humanitarian imperative up and come hostages has a chance of success. a direct dialogue might not result in success but the absence of dialogue will guarantee failure, resulting in my father's death and my brother serving at least 10 years in prison. i'm counting on president trump tuesday good to his word that americans will not languishing around when he is president. the president has had great success in freeing american
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hostages from other countries like north korea, venezuela, turkey, yemen, and egypt and i implore the president to spare no effort to bring my family and other hostages home from iran. finally, i would like to share a personal message from my dad his unicef colleagues are urging him to continue humanitarian efforts on behalf of the needy. my father sent this message to me as he was being forced back to prison after one of his emergency heart related surgeries. while the pain of those dearest to me continue to hurt deeply i am also sorry that with the help of all of you, and other great humanitarians, but i could not continue to serve our common cause of peace for children especially in the middle east region, poverty, combating child trafficking, and hearing the voices of the poor. sustaining these great causes that would be the best gift extended to this humble man. my father and brother have dedicated themselves to the most important causes of
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humanity, now we desperately urgently needed voices to reach out to them before it is too late. >> thank you for sharing that message with us. mister sacher? struck good afternoon, my name is omar, i am the youngest of them ears off his three sons. i'm speaking on behalf of him today. thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today. against my father's kidnapping. i was first here in july, in 25, 2017, my father was last seen leaving his lips as he was taken hostage. my father was on the official invitation of the iranian vice president who had invited my mother to speak on the second conference on women in sustainable development. i
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repeat, he was officially invited to iran by the vice president of around. my father is an internet freedom advocate, he is the president of an international ngo that specializes in internet information technology development based in washington dc. at has spent most of his career working on bridging the divide between different communities around the world. in september 2018, three years after my father had been taken, his first admitted to the press that the state had failed my brother my father yet my father remains a hostage of the revolutionary guard. in the last two years, my life has been very difficult. time and again, our hope that our father would be released have been shattered. my father has been subjected to physical and mental torture and ill treatment by his captors, who continue to exert pressure on him to make false confessions that support his crime. sometimes, my father has been promised that if he confesses he will be released.
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my father is a man of honor and integrity, he will not confess to a crime he has not committed. somehow, my father's estate his mental strength, it has just stopped a three-week hunger strike a few days ago. the only means available to him to protest because his family and friends pleaded with him to avoid a long hunger strike. i father has been denied his human rights. when the foreign minister of iran was once asked by the media about my father's case, his reply was that my father's case is a problem between the u.s. and iran, what problem could justify kidnapping my father? not a single day of those four years has passed and my family and i do not fear for my father's safety. the feeling of dread we experience if we miss my father's call we do not hear from him for three days is unbearable. we are tormented by the fear that something terrible has happened to him or will happen. in december of last year, he was taken in solitary
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confinement for approximately 45 days. we do not know where he was or if he was alive or dead. after four years of not seeing my father, i see him on film released by the iranian tv while being arrested, the film was shamelessly broadcasted by the uranian state. a part of a smear campaign that was broadcast four times on prime time television. there is no truth whatsoever in these allegations. my father is innocent. we thank the secretary of state to pompeo for the following statement he made about my father in mid september, 2016, when he was in congress. in which he said, this week marks one year the iranian government has been holding hostage zaka. an international do not develop expert, mister zaka spoke in millions of dollars of fines, the only crime was to bring greater net internet access for the women of around hurt my father is being held underground, about 17 men to
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each cell. in my father's cell is ranked with the smell of sewage infested with rats and bedbugs. there is no designated place for him to eat. my father spent 16 hours of each day in a coffin -sized space where he sleeps and keeps all of his clothes and possessions. they cannot see the sunlight or breathe fresh air at any time except for two hours per day during lunch time. we have to choose to have lunch and missed the sun or see the sun and missed lunch. my father's kidnapping is an act of state terrorism. iran has conducted this process of hostagetaking for over 40 years. we believe it will continue if representatives of the american people do not help put an end to it. we have done everything possible in our capacity to put an end to his misery. we have reached out to the un and other international human rights organizations, have launched petitions, we have
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campaigned for my father's cause in the media and have issued countless press releases from my brother and i about my father's case. we feel like we are facing obstacles we do not understand. we are looking forward to president trump today my father and other hostages while condemning their arbitrary detention by the uranian republican guard. knowing they are not forgotten. we ask americans to take all available legal and diplomatic measures to reunite us with our father. we ask this government to do the same for all the families of other hostages. thank you again, representatives of the american people for this opportunity and continuous support, thank you. >> thank you. thank you to all of our witnesses. let me begin by asking, on the july 2018 appointment of robert, certain special
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presidential envoy for hostage affairs, pledged that o'brien would maintain a collaborative dialogue with families and current hostages, regarding diplomatic recovery efforts for their loved ones. i just would ask each of you in your view, are special envoy o'brien and his staff fulfilling that pledge, and in what areas could there be improvement from your very important perspectives ms. levinson? >> robert o'brien and his team are extremely helpful in our case. they are available whenever we need them to be. their team coordinates any meetings that we need to have, and mister o'brien himself is in contact with us whenever he feels he needs to give us an update on my father's case. so, i think the hostage fusion cell as it is called is doing a good job it is necessary, to maintain the status of one
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place to get all the information about a hostage. >> thank you ms. levinson. mister namazi? >> so far is that office is concerned about the >> could you turn the microphone on, thanks? actually, sorry, is it on? is that on? >> okay, thank you very much. the office of been very helpful , i had no problems having indications obviously it is important to have a single point who is leading and managing this but from my point of view, while that office is very valuable and very helpful to have the indications, we are all sitting here because our loved ones are not with us. mister zaka? despite we do appreciate all of the support we are getting and we hope to see more support in the future. >> thank you. ms. levinson, last may you told
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time magazine that your family had been left behind after the trumpet ministration prioritized securing the release of american hostages in north korea. have you seen increased focus from the trump administration on your husband's case since the release of those americans in north korea? >> unfortunately i have not. i feel that more could be done. bob is still not home. so, it is necessary for the trumpet ministration to make it a priority. bob is long held hostage as i said before and the united states government to get him home, that is all we are asking for it is not something every american would not want for their family. >> it is a little unorthodox, and probably not quite the right thing to do, but, i just ask each of you, since i know the white house what is what happens here, and shares it with the president, give a message for the president?
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>> i would ask that he would meet with us. he doesn't know us, he does not understand how difficult it has been for our family, because he has not talked to us. we need to make sure that everyone in the united states government, that at the highest levels, knows how difficult it is for any family to be away from their loved one, and unable to resolve it themselves. >> i appreciate that. mister zaka? sister namazi? >> obviously, i would welcome very much the president's direct engagement. again, in the case of my family, he set a high standard for me personally when he tweeted about my family, and i have the feeling that incredible success has had with releasing hostages from other countries if he does meet with us and your authority
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will be even further motivated to spare no effort, especially given the urgency of my father's health. i am sure he would be very keen to do more himself. despite i appreciate that. mister zaka? >> i hope president trump hears our case and puts more focus into it, to publish the same account she has done with other hostages throughout the world. and i hope our families are next. all of our families because we do miss them and can't wait for them to come home. >> i appreciate that, i appreciate those messages to mister wilson? over to you. >> thank you very much mister chairman. this is one of the most meaningful hearings i've ever been to. and it is so meaningful, because of your participation, your heartfelt presentation. and, for mister namazi and mister zaka, if you are able could you tell us the conditions that you know about your loved one , now
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being held, and the importance for the world to understand, that the iranian regime is not only holding your loved ones, but also abusing them. and, if each of you could explain? >> again with mister tomasi and alex as mister namazi and mister zaka. the only reason i didn't ask ms. levinson is that they are still concealing what occurred march 9, answer, that is why i am asking you. >> thank you. absolutely horrific mistreatment, in the case of my brother, there has been also physical abuse, this has included the use of tasers. he has been placed in solitary confinement and isolation for close to a year, in certain circumstances, there was a threat of electric shock, with
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guards going as far as putting wires on him. he has had no mattress to speak up for an extended period of time, in a dark cold cell. and, in the case of my father as i mentioned, he is a medical furlough right now. while he was there, as an 82- year-old man, someone woke up one morning and decided to put a young man in solitary confinement for a few weeks. who does this? who wakes up, and makes a decision like this. we appreciate the attention, it's been a painful decision for me to come out and speak publicly as it has been for other family members, but i fear if i don't speak about it, it is important for the world to know that this is something our loved ones is going to, that is why the urgency. >> thank you. mister zaka? >> the treatment of everyone, especially the ones taken american citizens, they do not
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care about physical condition, they do not care about their mental condition. they subject them to being in solitary confinement for extended periods of time, with disregard of any human rights. >> thank you very much. ms. levinson, is to be here with your family, and i look forward to having your input in identifying the most effective way forward. from your experience and study of families study, and what talented family you have, what do you believe can be most effective to try to change the course of the iranian conduct of the illegal concealing of holding of your husband? >> i am not sure what will result my husband's case. what i would hope is that both
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sides, the united states government and around woodwork to get the cases of both my husband and all the other people being held hostage resolved. there is no reason for a government to hold an individual. i hope that the united states administration continues to make it a priority, to get all the hostages everywhere in the world home. these are people who make up the united states. the united states is a country of freedom and these people have no freedom. , that is what we need to make sure other governments do, especially around. >> going back to the tripoli pirates. this has always been the standard of our country to recover hostages, and not be subject to hostages. sadly, ms. levinson, your situation, there has been no contact at all. but, mister tomasi, mister namazi and mister zaka, have you been in contact at all with
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the iranian regime, in terms of what may be required for their release? your families release? >> i personally have had no contact with the iranian government. >> neither do i. for all three of you, by the iranian regime, but could be directed from the iranian regime. has there been any intimidation efforts on your family? >> no, we have not received any kind of intimidation. they have not acknowledged that they have bob officially, so they have not done anything as far as intimidating us. >> half of my family was ripped away from me. so, i don't think i need to call notes as they need to call and threaten me. their actions spoke very loudly. i know for a fact, that my brother was constantly
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threatened with the rest of my mom, for example. from my perspective, i would have rather have threatening calls. this is horrible to have to sit here and say this, but i would rather be threatened, beaten, but have my father or none of my family members. i wish they had taken me instead of my father because he would not dying right now, perhaps. >> mister zaka? >> i could not have said it better than my peer, mister namazi. we did not have any intimidation, so we have nothing to say, sir. >> as i conclude, i want to thank each of you, what wonderful families you have, god bless you. mister vargas you are recognized. >> thank you very much mister chair, thank you for holding this hearing, ranking member especially i would think the witnesses here today, mister levinson, i listened very
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closely to your testimony, and it was very moving, the sad situation that your daughter may be walking down the aisle again, without your husband. i have two daughters and i think that was very moving. then, when you were asked if you could say anything to the president, you would like to talk to him. i hope you do get a chance, because you communicated that so well, how sad it is, and how tormenting it is to not have your husband home. and, how that, mister namazi, your dad and brother, mister zaka, your dad, i hope you get that opportunity, because i think there is more we can do as a government to bring them home. i did want to ask specifically about that. my family has never been taken hostage. i hope to never do, obviously. and i wonder what kind of context -- contacts do you have in the american government? we talked about special envoy o'brien, but what kind of day-
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to-day contact or week to week or month to month or year to year. what kind of contact do you have officially with the government, as we tell you what we are doing or what we cannot do to help you? >> in bob's case the united states government, is a retired fbi agent, we have contact with the fbi. we do have contact -- we had contact with the state department as well over the years, and we have met with high-level officials that we need to over the years. as far as the hostage envoy goes, i feel that is much easier now, because, there's one person you get in touch with, and then you are able to get all the meetings you need through that one person. the hostage envoy mister o'brien does get in touch with us
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whenever he has new information to share. if we ask for a phone call, they are always willing to talk to us, i have never seen any problem with getting in touch with them, about the case. >> that's good to hear. my question was going to be done, he does communicate with you? you don't only call him, he sometimes calls you? >> right, he will ask for a call with us and we will make an arrangement for the whole family to get on a conference line and talk about the case. he has done that several times. as i said, he has invited us to dc for meetings and so on, so he has done a very good job with this. >> thank you. mister namazi, how about yourself? >> i am of course in regular contact with senior demonstration officials. i live in dubai, so i come to washington quite regularly, on this trip i did meet with them. i have had, again, another difficulty in meeting senior
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officials, although, before the hostage envoy, mister o'brien was appointed there were changes in it was not continuous, that was a challenge, it was almost a restart. and, i know they're working hard, for the families we have here. at the same time, i fear there is not enough being done fast enough, especially with a sense of the urgency which is very clear in the case of my father, it has been clear for the past year or two, but to deterioration has been very rapid. so, while i am grateful for the engagement, i do hope that we can step up and deploy whatever tools we have as the american government because obviously there is a lot. >> i know even your testimony, you were reticent to come up to speak because of the potential danger. but thank you for your bravery, thank you for coming forward,
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and i know that you are very concerned because of your father's age and illness. i hope that this doesn't encourage our government, and obviously the regime in iran to release them. how about you, mister zaka? >> they do can you get with my lawyer, but personally, they do not. and -- as needed. >> the special envoy has never communicated with you personally? >> no. >> okay. do you feel like you get the information that you need? >> no, sir. but you don't. okay. in your case that it does seem like we have to do a better job to connected with you, to let you know what is going on. is that correct? >> yes sir. i sure hope so. >> okay. my time is expired again, thank you very much for showing the courage to come forward. i want to thank the chair for the bills they have proposed, and i certainly support you, thank you very much. >> thank you mister chairman. i would like to begin by thanking mister deutsch for his commitment, i know, to the
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levinson family, he has been involved in this for -- it is obviously much harder on the family, but i know it's something he's been committed to and done everything he could for his constituents of this particular instance. we appreciate that, i know how frustrating it has been for obviously the family principally. but, a lot of the questions i think, it mostly comes down to what can we do, and we are considering legislation, if you all have a chance to review, was that done in cooperation, are there things you would like us to do additionally other than supporting that legislation? ms. levinson, in particular, was there something you would like to, for example -- i wish this would have gotten the bill in order to didn't get in there, are there any other thoughts that you have? >> i personally have not seen the wording of the bill, so i don't know exactly what it states. i would ask, a special envoy is
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something that is necessary, but i would hope that the administration would not use this as an excuse, to pass the buck, so to speak, it's not meet with the families themselves. i would like everybody to be able to see the families, and see what they are going through, and be able to help in any way possible. sometimes, i think because there is one person to go to who handles everything, it is hard -- people just do not take the interest as much. in the case. i don't think the overall government does that, and we need to do that. >> thank you very much. let me ask this. i know one of the things that being in your circumstance, obviously none of us can relate
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to this unless we are actually under those circumstances, and we are not, but let me just ask you this. it must be very frustrating to have to hold your tongue with respect to iran, and the government, knowing they have your loved one over there, and if you express your outrage, that they can take it out on your loved one. so, you have to be somewhat careful about that. is that the case, or what? i would be interested in hearing from each of you, ms. levinson? >> honestly, that is always in the back of my mind. we have over 12 years been silent, i do wonder every time we open our mouths whether it will have an effect on bob, and what happens to him. especially since we have no information. about what is happening to him right now. >> as a member of congress, i am sure you are all familiar with auto warm beer, who was taken by the north koreans.
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i used to represent as a part of the greater cincinnati he was in. now it's brad wednesday but i think brad thinks the same way. as much as i hate kim jong-un, and thinks he is a brutal thuggish dictator, who has done the most outrageous things to his own people, you want to bite your tongue because you always think if you are saying that they might take it out on this person, knowing that they have anything to do with you so i was always very careful, until he got back here obviously in a terrible state. but, that has got to be even tougher for the family. mister and arazi, mister namazi and mister zaka, how about holding her tongue? >> it's an extreme difficult decision. being here today was a difficult decision because the iranian government will always take the easy way out and blame the victims for its doings. every time i speak to the press, every time i come to hearings, i wish it ends soon,
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i'll be here to celebrate as i am sharing the pain, but the fact is, it is important i think. if there is not attention given to my family and others i feel like there could be more mistreatment so yes, i do fear that i have to wrestle that, versus the absolute silence of what that would mean for them. i don't have that luxury of knowing what is right or wrong all the time. i have to go with my gut feeling and of course the advice i get that the iranians have always insisted on keeping it quiet, because who wants this kind of publicity. who wants to stand at attention. so, i learned the difficult way, because for the first year, since this nightmare started for my family, we did keep quiet. i broke my silence only when there was a conviction. and i have to say that that was also encouraged by the previous administration, to keep quiet, especially when my brother was
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left behind. no one wanted to get that kind of attention on that side as well. >> thank you, my time has expired. >> of course, mister namazi you are. >> i am careful with what i do in front of the public, just because they're very unpredictable. they will take anything, maybe put it out on him, and it does affect me. i don't know what i can say or what i cannot, and how they will perceive it. it is a constant fear, whenever i do present myself in public towards this cause. >> thank you very much. i yield my time. >> first of all, i want to thank chairman george for holding this hearing, this is an unmitigated cavity for the tragedies. it's hard to comprehend a brother, father, or husband. going down the aisle with the doctors comments mind-boggling.
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america has had a tradition of a person left behind, and we owe it to you folks to continue that. and, my first question would be, how would you characterize differences between how the obama administration is working on this, versus the trump administration. mister levinson? >> trump administration, hostage envoy was not in place during president obama's first ministration. he was only created, -- the position was only created at the end of his second term. >> who was the hostage envoy? >> james o'brien. and now, with the trump administration, that position has been in place since the beginning. so, it is a whole difficult
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different situation, and it is difficult, because, i cannot really judge to administration's differently because of the two different situations. in the beginning, we had no contact with president obama, or his administration the way we do since the hostage envoy was created. so, i would say that the hostage envoy is helpful. the difference is also the obama administration was willing to talk to the iranians , and the trumpet ministration has said they will not talk to the iranians. >> hard getting a resolution if we don't talk to the iranians. >> right.
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>> again, you open with a correct statement, americans don't leave anyone behind. as i mentioned a few times, i can't help myself because it is just so -- i'm living every day with the consequence of that. that is what i thought. that is what my family thought, that is what we all believed in, that is what america stands for. we realized on national television that my brother was left behind. so yes, it was the iranians, the revolutionary guards took my family and kept them. it was the obama administration. for reasons i did not understand until today, so, my engagement again was very weak because for the first few months obviously that was still my family's only hope was there engagement, and i met with jim o'brien, an amazing person, and people who take this position,
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it is not for the glory, it is a thankless job but i appreciate people who are dedicated to this. it is, what part of the policies will be limited by these individuals and what powers do they have, but i share mrs. levinson's concern that yes, it is amazing and incredible to have this special presidential envoy because there is one person in charge. at the same time, i used to go to the white house quite often, not that i want to go to the white house, don't misunderstand me, but i felt i was being more engaged with the decision-makers. and, i think you had asked what could be done with the presidential envoy, i think perhaps empowered even more, and for hurt him to be a principal. we have spoken about the positions ambassador, because obviously whatever decisions are made are made at the white house, specifically with the same restriction which has a whole different approach with aaron, that becomes even more
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important. >> i am not very aware with how the government works and the policies that go around, most of them. but, what i can see is that the new station is more upfront with their activities and everything they do, more than the obama ministration. >> i will tell you i think it is important to mister wilson's point, that we have an opportunity, you have an opportunity to sit down with the president at some point in time, sooner rather than later every day, it's a bad day. and, telling your story, and if he has that as an imperative, he can get that job done. and, we owe it to you to get that job done. thank you. >> thank you, mister watkins you are recognized. >> i yield my time. >> thank you. mister keating?
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>> thank you mister chairman, i would like to thank you and directing member for having the support hearing, i would also like to thank mister chairman, things levinson theirs in particular, that each and every opportunity over the years, you have been making sure that every possible committee hearing heard publicly, but people know that this is a priority for us. but these americans are being detained without legal justification, and i would like to really think the witnesses for coming forward here today because it is not easy. it takes a lot of courage, and i know how difficult that must be. i also know how important it is, that we hear your voices and that the rest of america here's your voices through these hearings. and i hope, too, the iranians hear your voices. in fact, i will tell you with your presence here, i want to say this, and i think i don't
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speak for myself in many ways but this congress there is legislation to impose sanctions on those iranians responsible for and complicit with politically motivated and extended detention, trial of u.s. citizens or legal permanent residence. and, your presence here and hearing these stories, and seeing these actions of the iranian government in doing this will shape greatly the way that i view that legislation, and that legislation would not only pertain to sanctions individually on those people put on their families as well. so, thank you for being here in that regard. we've heard most of what you had to say, like so many members i have family members being detained in russia right now without legal justification. and i would just like to ask one question, a statement i made
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, is there anything outside of the official areas of action taken by the state department, or by the envoy, that we could ever be helpful with. the effect on your family, may be some help for your family and how they are coping with this weather might be areas we can provide some assistance, before i did this, i was a district attorney, and i know that people suffering the kind of trauma you are having, although it is hard to compare some of that. i know what they're going to as a family, and what they're going through themselves, could you perhaps suggest maybe some other resources that might help you, or your family members to get through this? >> i think victim services ministrations to help sometimes,
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i don't know what else they can do right now. >> i know there is only one thing to remedy the situation. to get them back. the evening of your life in their lives taken away. in all our years, and hours and minutes it is a terrible deprivation. any other suggestions you might have other than, you really don't have to suggest much, but your presence here says it all. thank you for doing this and i yield back. despite thank you, mister keating. mister wallace, you are recognized. >> thank you chairman. ranking member wilson, for allowing me to support the families today, in your important legislative efforts. i want to echo my colleagues, the iranian -- i don't even want is a habit, i want is a
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practice, deliberate estate practice of hostagetaking that has been a part of their foreign policies since the taking of our embassy in 1979, we may remember former army officer in a cia officer buckley who was tortured and hung through the iranian proxy has belied in the 1980s and they are still operating through proxies. syrian regime backed by iran. - my question i certainly agree with my colleagues and i would be interested in your families take as well. we need to turn up the pressure through sanctions. i think that is how that regime response.
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i understand your desire and support humanitarian track that is limited but specifically talks about these cases and open set that up. my guardrail on that, i will be interested in your take, no other substance and as a way to keep up the pressure to keep them. no other substance in terms of improving the relationship or anything the regime wants, without resolution on these issues whether it is the full release, my question is your opinion. do you agree with that and then secondly, specifically for you mr. namazi , can you elaborate how your brother was left behind. your understanding of how that happened. i think we need to get that out in the public's consciousness
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so it never happens again in any other type of negotiations. the humanitarian track but no other substance and then secondly elaborate on that. >> thank you. i believe it is very much consistent with american values of cherishing life and cherishing bringing americans him and we can only do that, in my view and i don't think there is many people that will disagree is through dialogue and a very narrow dialogue just as you have described it on the humanitarian track. we have managed to get other hostages home from countries that we thought we would go to war with. north korea i am referring to. if you recall, there was discussions of a nuclear engagement and within months, dialogue and other countries. i would very much support that i believe it not doing it would result in failure. >> not to interrupt you mr.
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namazi , you would agree that resolution and all of these cases is a precondition for any other talks. >> from my point of view, this is the most important thing for the world and me. yes. i don't know why my brother was left behind. i have heard different stories and different versions and i have also been accused unofficially and off the record by unnamed sources that we never requested help. this is a puzzle that i will take to grieve with me. but the fact is, they were left behind. there was an opportunity to not leave him behind and i think it was because it was important to have a deal on a specific date and that date could not be met. >> you are referring to the iran deal? >> yes. i can't imagine anything else. i don't understand what happened in the back door.
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i have heard different stories. i hope one day someone will write a book and i will find out what happened to my family. the painful truth is, he was not on the plane when the other hostages were on their. we found out about it. we did not get the heads up if someone would have called and said we can tell you why but be prepared for bad news. >> mr. namazi , in the interest of the little time i have remaining, i think there is a notion within media that we deal with and well-meaning that they don't want to highlight these cases. they don't want to increase the value of the hostages that are clearly being held at this hostage diplomacy. as you go through the process you see this horrible process that there is actually valued, more value. i know there is risks and you have described the risks to my colleagues but as a way for us to help, highlight the case and keeping the spotlight on them. there is more to be gained there and the risk.
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is there a consensus there amongst the families? >> my apologies for going over my time. >> bob was actually left behind and that 2016 deal. they were supposed to continue talking about his case and there were meetings between the united states government and the iranian officials. on bob's case. after the deal was made they had one meeting and nothing happened and it took from january to may before they had that one meeting. they had that one meeting and said they could not resolve the case and so therefore, nothing else was done. when asked about the differences between the two administrations, i would say that although the trump administration has the hostage envoy in place the obama and
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administration had an opportunity to get bob helm and failed to get him home. they had eight years to do that. i hope that president trump doesn't follow that lead and leave the bob behind again. i think we need dialogue. i think we need to figure out how to make that dialogue happen because the iranians don't need to come to the table if they don't want to. something has to change to make them want to come to the table. >> thank you very much. to your families for immensely giving participation in the hearing. thank you for reminding us how extremely personal this is for you. thank you for reminding us that we have a critical role to play in bringing your family members home and i would echo what mr. wilson said, the power
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of your testimony today will help compel that we continue to act on behalf of your loved ones and do everything that we possibly can to ensure that this is the last time we ever have to have this hearing. thank you and this hearing is adjourned.
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