House calls for release of political prisoners in Iran
© Getty Images

The House passed a resolution on Wednesday urging Iran to release American prisoners being held as hostages.

Lawmakers approved the resolution by a voice vote a day after passing a sanctions package that included measures targeting Iran for its ballistic missile development.

“I hope that this resolution sends a strong message to Iran that this practice will not be tolerated," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the author of the resolution and former chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"I hope that it sends a strong message to our own administration that Congress is heavily invested in the fate of Americans being held by Iran,” she added.


The bipartisan resolution was cosponsored by Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeSheila Jackson Lee tops colleagues in House floor speaking days over past decade Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Texas New Members 2019 MORE (R-Texas) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.).

The Iranian government has taken several American citizens and permanent residents as prisoners in recent years as a way to demand concessions from the U.S.

Iran released five U.S. nationals, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, in January 2016 as part of a prisoner swap.

The White House issued a statement last week demanding that Americans currently being held as prisoners in Iran be released, warning that new sanctions could go into effect if Tehran doesn’t comply.

“The United States condemns hostage takers and nations that continue to take hostages and detain our citizens without just cause or due process,” the White House statement read. “President Trump is prepared to impose new and serious consequences on Iran unless all unjustly imprisoned American citizens are released and returned.”

The Trump administration called on Iran to return Robert Levinson, who has been missing for more than a decade, along with father and son Baquer and Siamak Namazi, who were detained in 2015 and 2016.

Another American, Xiyue Wang, was arrested in Iran last year while conducting research for his doctoral dissertation at Princeton University. He has since been charged with espionage and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The resolution passed in the House on Wednesday urges Trump to make the release of American citizens and permanent residents held by Iran “the highest of priorities.” It also suggests that the U.S. and other allies with detained citizens establish a multinational task force.

New sanctions on Iran to punish its ballistic missile development and human rights violations were included as part of a package that also hits Russia and North Korea. The House passed the legislation by a vote of 419-3, and it now awaits a vote in the Senate before it can reach Trump's desk.

Updated: 6:25 p.m.