Foreign Relations Democrat calls on Iran to release other American prisoners

Foreign Relations Democrat calls on Iran to release other American prisoners
© Aaron Schwartz

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee called on Iran to release other imprisoned Americans after Tehran freed a Chinese American graduate student on Saturday as part of a prisoner exchange.

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers Democrats 'utterly unpersuaded' by evidence behind Soleimani strike MORE (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Foreign Relations panel, lauded the release of Princeton University scholar Xiyue Wang but said Tehran must release other Americans held in Iranian prisons.

“Tragically, Iran continues to pursue unjust, political detentions of its own citizens, Americans, and other foreigners. While we celebrate the release of Mr. Wang we cannot forget Robert Levinson, Michael White, and Baquer and Siamak Namazi and others unjustly detained,” the senator said in a statement.

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Menendez has been a vocal advocate of efforts to free the detained Americans, introducing the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act to bolster government programs to address hostage taking.

Administration officials maintained that after Wang’s release they will continue to advocate for the freeing of Americans imprisoned around the world. 

“The highest priority of the United States is the safety and well-being of its citizens. Freeing Americans held captive is of vital importance to my Administration, and we will continue to work hard to bring home all our citizens wrongfully held captive overseas,” President TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MORE said in a statement. 

“We continue to call for the release of all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Iran,” added Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoDems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request House panel reinvites Pompeo to deliver Iran testimony MORE.

A senior administration official told reporters Saturday that they hoped Wang's release marked an openness by Iran to abandon what they called "hostage-taking diplomacy" on the part of Tehran.

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The family of Robert Levinson, considered to be the longest-held hostage in U.S. history, said they were “extremely disappointed” that he remains imprisoned. He has been held in Iran for nearly 13 years.

“We welcome the release of Xiyue Wang and send our best wishes to him, his wife, Hua Wu and their young son, who will finally get to see his father again. This is a day they have long hoped for, but this news is bittersweet for our family,” the family said in a statement. “We can't help but be extremely disappointed that, despite all its efforts, the United States government was unable to secure his release, especially after such a painful week for our family.”

“It is time for Iran to send Bob Levinson home, so he can live the rest of his life in peace.  We look forward to when that day will come,” they added.