Federal Judge Richard Leon in Washington, DC, on Friday ordered Iran to pay Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and his family $180 million for his 544 days in custody.
Iran did not respond to the lawsuit in court, and Leon therefore issued a default judgment in Rezaian’s favor. Reznaian spent 18 months in an Iranian prison on alleged espionage charges before being released in January 2016.
His family was awarded $150 million in punitive damages; Rezaian himself was awarded $23.8 million in compensatory damages for pain and suffering and economic losses; his brother Ali Rezaian was awarded $2.7 million; his mother Mary was awarded $3.1 million.
Leon’s 30-page ruling details the account of Rezaian’s 18 months in custody, torture, lack of legal representation and forced confession, as well as ongoing physical and psychological harm.
“Holding a man hostage and torturing him to gain leverage in negotiations with the United States is outrageous, deserving of punishment, and surely in need of deterrence,” Leon wrote.
“There is no question that Iran detained and tortured Jason intentionally,” the judge added. “And both hostage taking and torture have been deemed sufficiently outrageous to inflict severe emotional harm on family members who were not present.”
The Post first reported the ruling. Rezaian is also a CNN contributor.
Rezaian, who was the Post’s Tehran bureau chief, was detained by Iran in July 2014 and eventually charged with espionage and other crimes. The newspaper and the United States have called the charges “absurd,” with supporters saying he was denied proper legal representation.
In 2016, Rezaian was among four US prisoners freed by Iran as part of a prisoner swap. Senior US administration officials told CNN at the time that the prisoners were released in exchange for clemency for seven Iranians indicted or imprisoned in the United States for sanctions violations, the officials confirmed.
CNN’s Michael Pearson, Elise Labott and Schams Elwazer contributed to this report.