Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian said Thursday that throughout his ordeal in an Iranian prison, his jailers insisted “the United States government would not lift a finger for my release.”
Rezaian spoke emotionally during the official opening of the newspaper’s new headquarters in front of the staff, owner Jeff Bezos and Secretary of State John Kerry.
“For much of the 18 months I was in prison, my Iranian interrogators told me the Washington Post did not exist, that no one knew of my plight and that the United States government would not lift a finger for my release,” he said. “Today, I’m here in this room with the very people who helped prove the Iranians wrong in so many ways.”
Rezaian also expressed gratitude to Kerry.
“No other country would do so much for an ordinary citizen,” Rezaian said.
Post publisher Fred Ryan welcomed attendees to the event by saying there was no sense in “burying the lede.”
“We have been waiting a long time to welcome you back to the Washington Post,” Ryan told Rezaian.
Rezaian received a standing ovation from those in attendance. As he stood at the podium, an emotional Rezaian acknowledged that he had “not been around a crowd for a long time.”
He spoke graciously of the people who supported him during his 545 days in captivity. He thanked Bezos by name as well as Ryan and Post executive editor Marty Baron.
Bezos, Rezaian said, “not only gave me a ride home to freedom but spent the last year and a half supporting the Post’s efforts on my behalf.”
Taking the stage immediately after Rezaian, Kerry said that Rezaian’s release marked “one of the days I enjoyed most as secretary of state.”
“Jason, we are all so delighted that you are back now,” Kerry said.
Kerry also said the case “gnawed at us.”
Bezos, the billionaire founder and CEO of Amazon, closed out the event with remarks about the prestige and future of the newspaper he bought in 2013. But like every other speaker, he began with a salute to Rezaian.
“First of all, we couldn’t have a better guest of honor for our grand opening than Jason,” Bezos said, “because the fact that you’re our guest of honor means you’re here.”
The Post recently moved into a brand-new headquarters building on K Street in Washington. It is holding a week of events to formally open the building. The timing overlapped with Rezaian’s return home.
Rezaian left Iran on January 17 as part of a prisoner swap deal between the United States and Iran.
He spent several days at a U.S. military hospital in Germany before flying home to the states on Bezos’s private plane last Friday.
“I am overjoyed to be reconnecting with my family,” he said when he departed Germany. “I am feeling well and plan to relax and enjoy home-cooked meals, sports, and movies with them over the next few days and weeks.”
He visited the Post newsroom Wednesday morning ahead of the official event on Thursday.
He attended a morning editorial meeting, had “his first look at the new newsroom” and said hello to colleagues, a Post spokeswoman said.