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Iran rejects court order to pay freed U.S. journalist Jason Rezaian $180 million

In this Sept. 25, 2019, file photo, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian participates in a panel discussion on media freedom at United Nations headquarters. Seth Wenig / AP

Tehran — Iran on Monday rejected a U.S. court order for a Washington Post reporter to be paid $180 million in damages for Tehran jailing him on espionage charges. Jason Rezaian spent 544 days in an Iranian prison before he was released in January 2016 in exchange for seven Iranians held in the United States.

On Friday, a U.S. district court judge ordered damages be paid to Rezaian and his family in compensation for pain and suffering as well as economic losses. 

The order, from U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon in Washington, did not lay out specifically how the money should be paid to Rezaian — be it from Iran or possibly from a fund established by the U.S. government to compensate victims of state sponsored terrorism. That fund has previously been used to distribute money to victims of Iran's 1979 student takeover of the U.S. Embassy in the Iranian capital.

In the lawsuit, Rezaian named Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard as a defendant.

The Iranian foreign ministry's spokesman described the journalist's decision to seek damages as "strange."

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"Mr Jason Rezaian... was a security convict and the Islamic Republic of Iran commuted his (sentence of maximum punishment) to imprisonment," said spokesman Abbas Mousavi. "He was pardoned and despite having an open case... he was released."

"For him to go there and lodge a complaint and for American courts to lavishly determine such figures," was a course of action that Iran "rejects," Mousavi said.

"This was a favor that the Islamic Republic of Iran did for him," he said, adding that Rezaian could have been kept behind bars and punished more severely.

Mousavi said Iran could itself take similar legal action against the United States, without elaborating.

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Relations between arch-foes Tehran and Washington plunged to a new low in May last year when the U.S. withdrew from an international accord that gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Rezaian and three other Americans were released on January 16, 2016, the day the nuclear agreement entered into force.

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