(House of Representatives - July 26, 2017)

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[Pages H6331-H6335]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. ROYCE of California. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and 
agree to the resolution (H. Res. 317) calling for the unconditional 
release of United States citizens and legal permanent resident aliens 
being held for political purposes by the Government of Iran, as 

[[Page H6332]]

  The Clerk read the title of the resolution.
  The text of the resolution is as follows:

                              H. Res. 317

       Whereas Iran has taken as hostages several United States 
     citizens, including Siamak and Baquer Namazi and Xiyue Wang, 
     as well as United States legal permanent resident, Nizar 
       Whereas Siamak Namazi was detained on October 15, 2015, 
     falsely accused, and convicted on October 18, 2016, for 
     ``collaborating with a hostile government'' and has been held 
     for extended periods in solitary confinement and under 
     constant interrogation;
       Whereas former UNICEF official Baquer Namazi, the 80-year 
     old father of Siamak Namazi, was detained on February 22, 
     2016, falsely accused, and sentenced to 10 years in prison 
     for the same crime as his son;
       Whereas former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 
     urged Iranian authorities to release Baquer Namazi, whose 
     health status is deteriorating, to allow his family to care 
     for him;
       Whereas UNICEF has issued four public statements on Baquer 
     Namazi's behalf;
       Whereas Xiyue Wang, a graduate student at Princeton 
     University, was arrested in Iran on or about August 7, 2016, 
     while studying Farsi and researching the late Qajar dynasty 
     as background for his doctoral dissertation, detained by Iran 
     in Evin prison for almost a year, falsely charged with 
     espionage, and sentenced to 10 years in prison;
       Whereas Robert Levinson, a United States citizen and 
     retired agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 
     traveled to Kish Island, Iran, and disappeared on March 9, 
       Whereas the United States Government had ``secured a 
     commitment from the Iranians . . . to try and gather 
     information about Mr. Levinson's possible whereabouts'' but 
     has not received any information thus far;
       Whereas Nizar Zakka, a United States legal permanent 
     resident alien and Lebanese national, who is also in a 
     weakened physical state, was unlawfully detained around 
     September 18, 2015, after presenting at a conference in Iran 
     at Iran's invitation, and was later falsely charged with 
     being a spy and sentenced to 10 years at the Evin prison;
       Whereas, on April 13, 2017, the Department of the Treasury 
     sanctioned the Tehran Prisons Organization and its former 
     head, Sohrab Soleimani, and White House Press Secretary Sean 
     Spicer noted ``The sanctions against human rights abusers in 
     Iran's prisons come at a time when Iran continues to unjustly 
     detain in its prisons various foreigners, including US 
     citizens Siamak Namazi and Baquer Namazi'';
       Whereas, on April 25, 2017, at the meeting of the Joint 
     Commission overseeing implementation of the Joint 
     Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Department of State 
     reported that the United States delegation had ``raised with 
     the Iranian delegation its serious concerns regarding the 
     cases of U.S. citizens detained and missing in Iran, and 
     called on Iran to immediately release these U.S. citizens so 
     they can be reunited with their families'';
       Whereas elements of the Iranian regime are reportedly using 
     nationals, dual-nationals, and permanent residents from the 
     United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and other 
     countries to exact political or financial concessions; and
       Whereas reports indicate that the Government of Iran is 
     seeking additional payments or other concessions, including 
     relief from economic sanctions, from the families of hostages 
     and their governments as a condition of release, a practice 
     banned by the 1979 International Convention Against the 
     Taking of Hostages and other international legal norms: Now, 
     therefore, be it
       Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
       (1) calls on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran 
     to release unconditionally Siamak Namazi, Baquer Namazi, 
     Xiyue Wang, Nizar Zakka, and any other United States citizen, 
     legal permanent resident alien, or foreign national being 
     unjustly detained in Iran;
       (2) urges the President to make the release of United 
     States citizens and legal permanent resident aliens held 
     hostage by the Government of Iran the highest of priorities;
       (3) requests that the United States and its allies whose 
     nationals have been detained consider establishing a 
     multinational task force to secure the release of the 
       (4) urges the Government of Iran to take meaningful steps 
     towards fulfilling its repeated promises to assist in 
     locating and returning Robert Levinson, including immediately 
     providing all available information from all entities of the 
     Government of Iran regarding the disappearance of Robert 
     Levinson to the United States Government;
       (5) encourages the President to take meaningful action to 
     secure the release of Siamak Namazi, Baquer Namazi, Xiyue 
     Wang, Nizar Zakka, and any other United States citizen, legal 
     permanent resident alien, or foreign national being unjustly 
     detained in Iran if the Government of Iran does not release 
     such United States citizens, legal permanent resident aliens, 
     and foreign nationals; and
       (6) encourages the President to take meaningful action to 
     secure the return of Robert Levinson if the Government of 
     Iran does not locate and return him.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
California (Mr. Royce) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. Engel) each 
will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California.

                             General Leave

  Mr. ROYCE of California. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that 
all Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their 
remarks and to include any extraneous material in the Record.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from California?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. ROYCE of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I 
may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, this particular resolution calls for the unconditional 
release of American citizens and legal permanent residents that are 
being held as prisoners right now, being held in jail by the Iranian 
  I would like to begin by thanking the ranking member and the chair of 
our Middle East Subcommittee--and that is both Ms. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, 
the chair, who is with us, and Mr. Ted Deutch--for their tireless work 
on behalf of these victims and on behalf of the families. They have 
introduced this resolution along with Congresswoman Nita Lowey and 
Congressman Judge Ted Poe.
  The reason for it, as you all know, is that Iran just continues to 
engage in this despicable practice of detaining people who are visiting 
Iran, and then they come up with fabricated criminal charges, and then 
these innocent people are held captive; but not just held captive, it 
is the brutal conditions which they find themselves in.
  When we have talked to those and they have shown us what they have 
been through, these former prisoners in Iran, these Americans, they 
describe being subjected to electric shock, to forced drug withdrawal, 
through whippings, solitary confinement, they are denied medical care 
oftentimes, and routinely forced to sleep on the floor, if they are 
permitted to sleep at all.
  Right now we have a number of U.S. citizens, Siamak and Baquer 
Namazi, Xiyue Wang, and U.S. permanent resident Nizar Zakka.
  These U.S. citizens and permanent residents were imprisoned after 
being falsely accused of collaborating with a hostile government or 
accused of espionage. Their families are paralyzed with fear about how 
they are being treated.
  Why is Iran so intent on holding Americans on bogus politicized 
  It is because the Iranian regime believes it can use detained 
Americans as leverage to demand concessions, like ransom or sanctions 
relief, in violation of the International Convention Against the Taking 
of Hostages.

                              {time}  1445

  U.S. citizen Robert Levinson, he is still missing, and this is after 
10 years. He disappeared 10 years ago in Iran, and Iran has not 
remotely fulfilled its commitment to try to help locate him.
  Our committee has held multiple hearings with these prisoners' 
families, most recently yesterday, when family Members testified before 
our Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, and we thank them for 
their bravery in sharing their stories.
  We stand in solidarity with these citizens and with their families as 
we call for their release. We can't imagine the horror that one would 
be experiencing, but our hearts are with you, and we are committed to 
advocate on behalf of you and your loved ones.
  H. Res. 317 calls on Iran to let these Americans, and all individuals 
being unjustly detained by Iran, come home. And it also calls on Iran 
to fulfill its many promises to help find Bob Levinson. It also urges 
the President to prioritize release of these captives and encourages 
him to take meaningful action to secure their release.
  Last week, the administration called on Iran to release these 
unjustly detained U.S. citizens, or to face new and serious 
consequences. We appreciate the administration's actions so far and, 
with this resolution, urge continual attention to this matter until all 
of these prisoners have been safely returned to their families.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

[[Page H6333]]

  I rise in support of this measure. Let me thank Chairman Royce, 
because here again is another piece of legislation from the Foreign 
Affairs Committee that we have shown we can work together within a 
bipartisan manner; so I am pleased to stand with the chairman.
  I am also pleased to stand with the gentlewoman from Florida, former 
chairman, and my good friend as well, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. She is now 
chair of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North 
Africa, along with the resolution's other lead sponsors, the 
gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Lowey), the gentleman from Florida (Mr. 
Deutch), the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee's ranking 
member, and the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Poe).
  We are here today to talk about Americans illegally detained by the 
Iranian regime, and those Americans have had no stronger champions than 
the Members I have mentioned before through the years.
  Mr. Speaker, it is just outrageous that the Government of Iran 
continues to hold American citizens and residents on trumped-up 
  Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father, a former UNICEF official in 
poor health; Baquer Namazi; Karan Vafadari, an American citizen, and 
his wife, Afarin Niasari; Nizar Zakka, who was detained after attending 
a conference at Iran's invitation; another American citizen who has 
been kept anonymous by family for fear of that person's well-being; 
and, of course, Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran more than 10 
years ago. How cruel--10 years. His family doesn't know where he is. 
His family doesn't know how he is.
  This is a regime, the Iranian regime, which talks about piety and 
religion, and they don't have any feeling of humankind from one person 
to another.
  The detainment and disappearance of these people, and citizens of 
America's friends and allies, the pain and suffering and uncertainty 
that their families endure every single day, and the lack of 
cooperation and information coming out of Tehran, are a pretty clear 
indication of how this regime operates and what its values are.
  The measure we are considering today underscores what Congress has 
said before: This behavior is unacceptable, and it must stop. We call 
on the government in Iran to release these men and women immediately, 
without precondition.
  The people of Iran are the real captives of this regime, but these 
American citizens are our citizens, and we demand their release. The 
Government of Iran must do what it has long promised by providing 
information on the disappearance of Robert Levinson, and we urge the 
Trump administration to make resolving this issue a top priority.
  So I am glad to stand with my colleagues on both sides to support 
this measure. I, again, thank my friend from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) 
for, as always, outstanding, stellar, and heartfelt work on these 
  I thank Chairman Royce again, and all the people I mentioned before.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. ROYCE of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield 6 minutes to the 
gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen), who chairs the Foreign 
Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, the author of 
this measure.
  Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I thank Chairman Royce, as well as my 
good friend, the ranking member, Mr. Engel, for their help in bringing 
H. Res. 317 to the floor today and for their tireless efforts to hold 
the Iranian regime accountable for all of its illicit activity, 
including the taking of American citizens and U.S. legal permanent 
residents as hostages. They have been incredible supporters of this 
movement, and I thank them for their unwavering support.
  Of course, I want to thank Ranking Member Nita Lowey for her help--I 
had the opportunity of meeting one of the family members with her 
before this presentation--and Judge Poe, who is always at our side; and 
my south Florida colleague and my dear friend, Ted Deutch, the ranking 
member on our Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee. We have all 
joined together in authoring and introducing this resolution.
  The resolution, Mr. Speaker, is important for all of us. But for Ted 
Deutch, for my friend from south Florida, I know how very personal this 
is for him because it is his constituent, Bob Levinson, who continues 
to be held by Iran 10 years after his disappearance.
  Just yesterday, Ted and I convened a hearing in our Middle East and 
North Africa Subcommittee with some of the family members who are named 
in this very resolution.

  Doug Levinson, for example, Bob's youngest child, testified.
  Babak Namazi, son of Baquer and brother of Siamak testified.
  Omar Zakka, son of Nizar, testified.
  All three of them testified before our subcommittee, and their 
stories were moving, they were heartfelt, and they were heartbreaking. 
Each one, along with their families, forced to live in their own 
personal hell.
  In Doug Levinson's case, Mr. Speaker, he presented photos, emails, 
even videos of his father who, after more than 10 years, is the 
Nation's longest held hostage in our history. What a sad distinction.
  We heard how Iran has reportedly and repeatedly failed to live up to 
its promise to assist in Bob's case and help return him to his loved 
ones, including the five grandchildren that Bob has yet to meet.
  We heard Omar plead for his father's life, as Nizar is now 1 month 
into his fifth hunger strike. But this time, Mr. Speaker, Nizar has 
vowed that there will be no turning back. Nizar says that he will 
continue with his hunger strike for himself and the others who are 
unjustly held by Iran, stating, it is ``liberty or death; there is no 
turning back.''
  So can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, being 19 years old, a teenager, and 
he is testifying in front of us yesterday, and he is hearing his father 
say that he is willing to die in Iran in pursuit of truth and justice, 
and his throat was breaking as he is testifying in front of us.
  We also heard Babak distress over the health of his father and his 
brother, two loved ones. Mr. Namazi's father has lost more than 30 
pounds in Iran's notorious prisons. He is 81 years old. He suffers from 
a severe heart condition. He had to be hospitalized twice in just the 
past few months. Babak fears that his father's physical and mental 
condition--they are both rapidly deteriorating.
  His brother, he fears, has given up hope because of the horrific 
conditions he is being held under. He is kept in isolation. He is 
mentally abused. He is physically abused. That is horrifying. That is 
  Though we heard the sorrow in their voices, Mr. Speaker, we also 
heard defiance and determination. Defiant in accepting the Iranian 
regime's absurd claims against Bob, against Baquer, against Siamak, 
against Nizar; defiant in accepting that their fates are sealed, that 
there is nothing more that can be done; defiant in remaining silent as 
their loved ones suffer under the terror regime in Tehran.
  We saw their determination--determination as each of the witnesses 
before us yesterday vowed that their fight is not nearly over, that 
they remain determined that they can force the return of their loved 
  And they looked to us, Mr. Speaker, they looked to us to use our 
positions as Members of the United States House of Representatives to 
pressure the Iranian regime to release all American citizens, all 
American legal permanent residents, unconditionally.
  They looked to us to demand that Iran be held accountable for its 
tactic of taking our people hostage in order to get financial or 
political concessions. They looked to us to stand up and to decry this 
practice for what it is--morally corrupt, ethically corrupt, and 
legally wrong.
  That is why Nita, and Ted, and Judge Poe, and Chairman Royce, and 
Ranking Member Engel, and I introduced this resolution before us today, 
and that is why Ted and I convened our hearing yesterday; and that is 
why, today, I am urging all of our colleagues to stand in solidarity 
with us, with the family members, with the hostages, and demand that 
Iran release all American citizens and legal permanent residents that 
it is holding hostage immediately and unconditionally.

[[Page H6334]]

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentlewoman has expired.
  Mr. ROYCE of California. I yield the gentlewoman an additional 1 
  Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I hope that our colleagues will indeed 
stand with us. I hope that this resolution sends a strong message to 
Iran that this practice will not be tolerated. And 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 and that we will 
demand action to win their unconditional release, their immediate 
  Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, it is now my pleasure to yield 3 minutes to 
the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Lowey), my esteemed colleague, 
friend, and ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. We have 
districts that are adjoining.
  Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to thank my very good friends, 
Chairman Ed Royce, Ranking Member Eliot Engel, my fellow New Yorker, 
and the strong advocate, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. I want to thank them for 
advancing this very important resolution.
  I rise in strong support of H. Res. 317, which I introduced with my 
friends, Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ted Deutch, and Ted Poe. 
This resolution calls for the unconditional release of U.S. citizens 
and legal permanent residents being held on baseless charges by the 
Government of Iran.
  Two of these prisoners, Siamek Namazi and Baquer Namazi, were 
previously my constituents when they last lived in the United States. I 
have had the honor of getting to know Babak Namazi, the courageous 
brother and son of these two prisoners, who has tirelessly worked to 
free them from unjust imprisonment.
  While the Iranian Government continues to try and exact concessions 
with these prisoners from the United States, Baquer Namazi, an 80-year-
old former UNICEF leader, suffers from increasingly poor health in Evin 
Prison. A man who spent his entire life serving the world's most 
vulnerable should not, cannot, spend his final years in such terrible 
  But this is just one prisoner's story. Each of the United States' 
citizen and legal permanent resident prisoners is suffering while 
imprisoned on trumped-up charges. Each has family members who worry, 
every hour of the day, whether they will ever see their loved ones 

                              {time}  1500

  The United States must do all we can to ensure these prisoners return 
home. This resolution sends a strong message to the Government of Iran. 
These heinous attempts will not pay off. All of the prisoners must be 
released immediately. And Iran must fulfill its previous promises to 
locate and return Representative Deutch's constituent, Robert Levinson, 
a U.S. citizen missing in Iran since 2007.
  Mr. Speaker, once again, I thank everyone who helped advance this 
  Mr. ROYCE of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the 
gentleman from Texas (Mr. Poe). He is the chairman of the Foreign 
Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.
  Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me 
time. I want to thank him and the ranking member for moving this 
legislation forward.
  Mr. Speaker, Iran is the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the 
whole world. Out of 195 countries, they are the worst country in the 
world when it comes to exporting terrorism.
  The mullahs in Tehran not only support worldwide terrorist groups, 
terrorist groups that have American blood on their hands, they resort 
to terrorist tactics to extort and blackmail the American people.
  For decades, Iran has held American citizens in prisons unlawfully. 
They detain these Americans under the charge of espionage. We all know 
that this is just a ploy to extract concessions from the United States.
  Earlier this month, we learned that Iran threw another American 
citizen in jail last year. This time it was a Princeton Ph.D. student 
conducting research in Iran for his dissertation. This student is now 
being held in Iran's most notorious prison, Evin Prison. If anyone 
thought that Iran was going to moderate as a result of the nuclear 
deal, these ongoing unlawful detentions are evidence to the contrary.
  Iran has been emboldened, and there is no indication they will stop 
this tactic of terror. We need to get the attention of the barbaric 
mullahs that seem to take delight in imprisoning Americans and even 
Iranian citizens for political reasons.
  We know at least eight Americans currently languish in Iranian jails. 
Iran is not content with just holding these Americans. They are 
actively working to extract payments and concessions from the United 
States, like sanctions relief, as a condition for their release. This 
is old-fashioned textbook extortion.
  This resolution will send a clear message to the mullahs: Release the 
Americans and return them to their homes. Let the American hostages go.
  I was glad to see the new sanctions imposed by the Treasury in April 
on the Tehran Prisons Organization. More pressure is needed by our 
  I urge the administration to spare no effort to secure the release of 
American hostages. These hostages have been held by Iran too long, and 
Iran has proven that they do not respond very well to carrots. Since we 
gave away the courthouse and the mineral rights in the Iranian deal, 
maybe it is time we pull out the stick. As Teddy Roosevelt said: 
``Speak softly, and carry a big stick.''
  And that is just the way it is.
  Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from 
Michigan (Mr. Kildee), who has worked tirelessly to free his 
constituent from the Iranian regime.
  Mr. KILDEE. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for yielding to me.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H. Res. 317, calling for the 
unconditional release of United States citizens held by Iran.
  Unfortunately, I am all too familiar with this issue. My constituent, 
and now my good friend, Amir Hekmati, a Marine veteran, was held by the 
Iranian regime in Evin Prison for 4\1/2\ brutal years.
  Thankfully, after a long struggle with the help of many voices across 
the country and across the world, including my friends, the ranking 
member and the chairman of this committee, who both used their good 
offices to advance the interests of Mr. Hekmati, ultimately he was 
freed. On January 16, 2016, he came home.
  But it is long past time for Iran to release those Americans that 
they are holding, particularly Mr. Levinson, with whom I became quite 
familiar and whose family I came to know during the period of time that 
I sought freedom for Mr. Hekmati. Mr. Levinson's family has endured 10 
unspeakable years of anguish trying to bring their father and husband 
  If Iran ever wants to be taken seriously in the global community, it 
has to stop this practice of taking innocent people as political 
prisoners, people like Amir Hekmati, people like Mr. Levinson, and 
those other Americans being held today.
  It is also important to note, both for us here in this body, across 
the country, particularly for those watching in other parts of the 
world, including Iran, that there are times when we have divisions in 
this country. There are times when we have divisions in our government, 
even on the floor of this House of Representatives. This is not one of 
them. We stand absolutely united as Democrats, as Republicans, as 
Independents, as Americans, saying to the Iranian Government and 
speaking through the Iranian people to their government: You cannot 
take political prisoners and hold them and expect to be taken seriously 
as a member of the global community.
  Mr. Speaker, I encourage all of my colleagues, Democrats and 
Republicans, to send that strong message, to pass this resolution. I 
thank the sponsors of this resolution. I thank the chair and ranking 
member for their leadership on this issue now, and particularly at a 
time when my constituent most needed it, and I pray for the same 
success for those Americans that are being held now.
  Mr. ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, yesterday this House spoke in no uncertain terms, in a 
bipartisan fashion, about what we think of Iran's dangerous and 

[[Page H6335]]

behavior. An overwhelming bipartisan majority voted to slap tough new 
sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program, for the regime's 
support for terrorism, and for the awful record of human rights abuses 
against the Iranian people.
  Tehran should know that we mean business. We will not back down on 
any of these issues, and we certainly will not forget that Americans 
are being wrongfully held.
  I am glad to go on record once again, along with my colleagues, 
Chairman Royce, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Nita Lowey, everyone who has 
spoken today, shining a line on this abuse, to put it front and center 
in our foreign policy, to call on Iran's leaders to release these 
people, and to say they will not be forgiven as long as these people 
are unlawfully held.
  Mr. Speaker, I urge all my colleagues to vote ``yes.'' I am happy 
that we are bringing this important issue to the fore, and I yield back 
the balance of my time.
  Mr. ROYCE of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I 
may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, I would just say that the individuals that we are 
talking about, the Americans that are being held in captivity and their 
families, have been suffering for far too long. I think our country 
needs to take decisive action to secure their release, and I believe 
that we have got to make sure that Iran and all other hostile actors 
who would follow Iran down this road know that taking U.S. prisoners 
does not pay.
  I again thank Mr. Engel and the gentlewoman and gentleman from 
Florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ted Deutch, for their leadership, 
along with Nita Lowey and Ted Poe.
  Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this resolution as the 
next step toward bringing these innocent people back home to the United 
States, and I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from California (Mr. Royce) that the House suspend the rules 
and agree to the resolution, H. Res. 317, as amended.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the 
rules were suspended and the resolution, as amended, was agreed to.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.