Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali is calling on the Iranian government to release Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, calling his fellow Muslim American a "man of peace and great faith" who deserves his freedom.
The correspondent has been imprisoned since July, The Washington Post reports, and on Thursday, Ali issued his statement through the National Press Club.
"It is my great hope that the government and judiciary of Iran will end the prolonged detention of journalist Jason Rezaian and provide him with access to all of his legal options," the 73-year-old icon said in his statement.
The statement was handed out hours before a scheduled news conference by Ali Rezaian, who was to appeal for his brother's release.
On July 22, Rezaian was arrested at his home
along with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, an Iranian reporter, the Post said. She was released on bail, but her husband, who was born in the United States but is a dual national, has been kept in Tehran's Evin Prison since that time.
Ali said that Rezaian is a "man whose dedication and respect for the Iranian people is evident in his work," and that he supports Rezaian's family, friends, and colleagues in securing his release.
Nearly a quarter-million people have called for Rezaian's release through a change.org petition
addressed to addressed to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, and judiciary chief, Sadegh Larijani.
Secretary of State John Kerry has called for all charges to be dropped against Rezaian.
Even though the journalist has been in prison for nearly seven months, the Iranian government has not identified the charges filed against him. He was allowed to seek medical treatment and have access to an attorney last month, The Post reports.
Ali, in poor health for years and battling Parkinson's disease, rarely makes public statements. He was hospitalized last year for a severe urinary tract infection.
Ali's statement in full, reads:
With the Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful
I am sorry that I cannot be physically present to lend my support in person but I pray my words will provide relief to the efforts to secure the release of Jason Rezaian.
Insha’Allah, it is my great hope that the government and judiciary of Iran will end the prolonged detention of journalist Jason Rezaian and provide him with access to all of his legal options.
During his time as the Washington Post bureau chief in Tehran, Jason used his gift of writing and intimate knowledge of the country to share the stories of the people and culture of Iran to the world.
To my knowledge Jason is a man of peace and great faith, a man whose dedication and respect for the Iranian people is evident in his work.
I support his family, friends and colleagues in their efforts to obtain his release.
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