Freed Washington Post Reporter Gives Emotional Thanks to Colleagues, John Kerry

Jason Rezaian spent more than 500 days in detention in Iran.

January 28, 2016, 5:31 PM

— -- Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who spent more than 500 days in detention in Iran, spoke today at the official opening of the newspaper’s new headquarters, thanking his colleagues and Secretary of State John Kerry for working hard to secure his freedom.

"I am happy to be home with you," he told the assembled crowd, appearing emotional and keeping his head down during his remarks. He didn’t describe his detention other than to say his Iranian captors often told him The Washington Post didn't exist, nor was anyone in the U.S. government lifting a finger to get him returned.

"Today, I'm here in this room with the very people who helped prove the Iranians wrong in so many ways," Rezaian said.

Rezaian was freed earlier this month after being held on charges that included espionage. The paper vehemently denied this accusation and pushed hard for the U.S. government to secure his release.

"I'm truly fortunate to have this opportunity," he said. "No other county would do so much for an ordinary citizen."

During his detention, the Post newsroom was decorated with #FreeJason signs and many reporters wore pins with the similar message #JasonIsFree.

At today’s event, Rezaian thanked his colleagues, the paper’s lawyers and its owner, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

"To my colleagues at the Washington Post, you all are all awesome," he said.

Kerry also spoke at the event, giving Rezaian a handshake and a hug. Kerry appeared to choke up at times, saying "we are all so delighted you are back."

He was emotional right off the top of his remarks, pausing to compose himself when he said: "In the military, as you all know, and in other dangerous callings, the most sacred pledge you can make is to never leave a buddy behind. ... Like most pledges, it is a lot easier to say than to do."

He called the day that Iran freed the American detainees, including Rezaian, as "one of the days that I enjoyed the most as secretary of state."

"It was also perhaps one of the most nerve-wracking," Kerry said. He explained that after 12 hours of delay in announcing implementation of the nuclear deal, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told him that they couldn’t find Rezaian’s wife and mother.

"Now you know from some people that might make sense ... but Iran couldn’t find the wife and mother?" Kerry quipped.

There was an enormous amount of activity after that, Kerry said, thanking Zarif for getting everyone moving, including waking up a judge in the middle of the night to sign the necessary papers.

Rezaian’s appearance at today’s event added to the celebratory mood as The Post marked the grand opening of its new headquarters, just a few blocks away from its old home in downtown Washington.

The new building is filled with nods to the paper’s storied past, with tributes to legendary editor Ben Bradlee, former publisher Katharine Graham and the Pulitzer prizes the paper has won over the years, including for its coverage of the Watergate scandal.

But the new space has a modern feel, reflecting its move from being a newspaper to, essentially, a digital media company that produces news stories across various platforms.

On hand for the morning gathering was a who’s-who of Washington, including members of Congress, former White House officials and decorated journalists, including The Post's Bob Woodward. The mayor of D.C. and the governors of Maryland and Virginia were also in attendance.

A seven-piece band played in the background as guests sipped on coffee from an espresso bar and greeted one another. The band broke out into the famous John Sousa Washington Post March.

At the close of the ceremony, Bezos said, "We couldn't have a better guest of honor," referring to Rezaian.

"I'm going to dedicate this building right now to mission and adventure," he added before turning to a big screen behind him that showed a picture of the new building with a sign: "Let's cut this digital ribbon!"

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