Jason Rezaian, journalist jailed in Iran for 544 days, recalls "avocado" interrogation

Jason Rezaian on Iran imprisonment, Trump

Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post journalist detained in an Iranian prison for 544 days after his arrest in 2014, said his "great hope" for the families of at least four Americans held in Iran is that they'll be reunited with their loved ones. "This thing didn't start with me. It didn't end with me. It continues on, this industry of taking hostages in Iran," Rezaian said Monday on "CBS This Morning."

He added: "I hope that the Trump administration does a lot more than they have been doing to bring these people home."  

Rezaian, released in January 2016 alongside three other Americans in a prisoner swap with Iran, is releasing a new memoir titled "Prisoner" where he chronicles his experience. The Tehran bureau chief for Washington Post had lived in the capital of Iran for five years before his arrest.

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"Iran's the sort of country where you can't go and report from if you don't have state permission, Rezaian said. "Literally, the day that we were arrested, July 22, 2014, my wife and I – she's also a journalist – had our accreditations extended for another year on top of what we had."

But he said even though he "knew the rules, played by the rules," he was still arrested and accused of being a spy for the U.S.

"It was a rapid-fire succession of every sort of accusation that you can imagine. And none of them held any water," Rezaian said.  

While blindfolded at his first interrogation, he said a voice kept prompting him to explain a Kickstarter campaign he launched in 2010 called "Iranian Avocado Quest" – his attempt to bring light to the lack of avocados in the Islamic Republic. The interrogators believed it was a front for a different project.

"At that point, I'm a few minutes into this ordeal. I'm still laughing, thinking to myself, it can't be about this," Rezaian said.  

But ultimately, despite the threats of getting his head cut off and being forced into solitary confinement, Rezaian said he survived with hope that he would be reunited with his wife.

"We had the good fortune of her being in Iran as well. And after several months and the raising of awareness around my case, I was given the opportunity to see her from time to time. And she was, you know, real fuel of that hope, you know. And she was the one that was telling me, 'Hey, you're never going to plead guilty. You didn't do anything wrong. We're going to get out of this.' And I think we supported each other through a really tough process and knowing that the rest of the world was really behind us helped," Rezaian said.

Rezaian also wrote about hugging his interrogator before his release: "Yes, it's even possible to develop an attachment to your tormentors, and no, asshole, that's not Stockholm syndrome." Asked about the surprising gesture, he explained, "Maintaining your humanity… is the most important thing you can do in life. If you let go of that, what else do you have?"