In conjunction with the United States’ recent prisoner swap with Iran, a fifth detainee named Matthew Trevithick, who worked at Georgetown’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, was separately released Jan. 16. Trevithick was released along with four other prisoners, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian.
The original agreement planned for the exchange of four American prisoners for seven Iranians, who were either released or will have the charges against them dropped. Adding Trevithick to the negotiation jeopardized the completion of the original deal, which led to Secretary of State John Kerry directly negotiating with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for Trevithick’s release on a different track.
Trevithick was conducting research at the Syrian Research and Evaluation Organization in Turkey, a research center that Trevithick co-founded in 2013. The center conducts analysis to help governments and organizations respond to the Syrian conflict and humanitarian crisis. Trevithick then traveled to Iran in Sept. 2015 to participate in a four-month intensive Dari language program at Tehran University’s Dehkhoda Institute, where he was detained by Iranian authorities.
According to his family, Trevithick contacted them once a day prior to his detainment to assure them of his safety. The day that Trevithick was captured in December, twenty-four hours went by without any word from him.
Trevithick’s mother and stepfather were informed several days later that Iranian authorities were holding him. He went on to spend 40 days in Iran’s Evin prison, which is known for detaining political prisoners.
In a statement, Trevithick’s family expressed gratitude to all those who worked to secure his release.
“We are profoundly grateful to all those who worked for his release and are happy for all the families whose loved ones are also heading home,” the statement read. “We look forward to reuniting with Matt and ask that all respect his privacy as he returns.”
Trevithick’s mother Amelia Newcomb said that the family strategically kept his detainment discreet.
“We kept it very, very quiet because that’s how we could best ensure a positive outcome,” Newcomb said to The New York Times.
Trevithick’s stepfather Scott Armstrong said that he was confused as to why his stepson was detained in the first place.
“They just grab people and you don’t really know why,” Armstrong said to The New York Times. “He was very careful.”
Trevithick, a 2008 graduate of Boston University, is recovering with his family after returning to Massachusetts.
Robin Wright, a joint fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, said that it is unclear why Trevithick was detained, according to Financialcv.com.
Hoya Staff Writer Aly Pachter contributed reporting.
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