An Iranian television journalist with dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship was released from U.S. government custody Tuesday and concluded her testimony a day later to a federal grand jury in Washington, according to a newly unsealed court order.
The order, made public Thursday, said Marzieh Hashemi, 59, a veteran producer and on-air presenter for Iran’s English-language Press TV, had completed her obligations under a “material witness” warrant and been represented by counsel at four court appearances, and that the matter was closed.
Hashemi’s Jan. 13 arrest without charge by the FBI drew protests from Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Hashemi’s family said she was arrested when she arrived at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, where she had been working on a documentary about Black Lives Matter, before boarding a flight to Denver to visit her adult children in Colorado.
The U.S. government earlier confirmed in a separate court order unsealed Jan. 18 that it was holding Hashemi, who also was referred to by her birth name of Melanie Franklin, pending her testimony, and that she was not accused of any crime.
Material witness warrants are rare and can be used to arrest witnesses if they have information important to a criminal investigation and are deemed likely to flee. Hashemi’s case is the first such filed in federal court in Washington this year.
Grand jury proceedings are closed and the nature of the investigation in which Hashemi’s testimony has not been made public.
Hashemi was seen entering the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., Wednesday morning with one of her sons, where her testimony was expected.
Press TV, a Tehran-based network overseen by the Iranian government, and Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting have objected to Hashemi’s detention, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif last week called her arrest a “violation of freedom of speech.”
Her son Hossein Hashemi, a research fellow at the University of Colorado, told The Washington Post on Friday that he, his mother and two of his siblings had been subpoenaed to appear at court in Washington but said he did not know the subject matter.
It was not clear by early Wednesday evening whether Hashemi’s children had completed their testimony. Efforts to contact an attorney for one of them was unsuccessful.
Preston Burton, an American attorney representing Hashemi, said the matter was under seal.
A small group of pro-Hashemi protesters rallied outside the court during her testimony Wednesday.
Emails to Iran’s permanent mission at the United Nations and de fact consular interests section at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington requesting comment were not returned.
A U.S. Justice Department spokesman asked about the case referred to the information in the order by U.S. District Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell unsealed Thursday, which stated in part, “On January 23, 2019, Franklin completed her testimony before a grand jury investigating violations of U.S. criminal law, thereby satisfying her obligations in this material-witness matter, which is now closed.”