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Jailed Journalist's Mother Breaks Her Silence; June Steenkamp Remembers Reeva; Imagine a World

Aired December 12, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: a mother's anguish, one whose son is the longest held Western journalist in an Iranian

prison, Mary Rezaian appeals for his release in her first TV interview.

And June Steenkamp, mourning the death of her daughter, Reeva. She tells us of her sorrow and her hope now that Oscar Pistorius faces another



AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this special edition of our program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

For five months now journalist Jason Rezaian has been languishing in an Iranian jail. His crime? We still don't know. No public explanation

has been given for the American Iranian's arrest but now a judge in Tehran has formally charged him.

And tonight Jason's mother, Mary, reveals her worst fears, that he's been falsely accused of espionage.

Rezaian is "The Washington Post" correspondent in Tehran and the paper says that he and his wife, who was released on bail in October, were

arrested under murky circumstances. I've asked top Iranian government officials about Jason's case, including President Rouhani, and none has

given us a clear answer to why he's in prison.

So Jason's mother has decided to break her long silence and, in her first TV interview since his arrest, she is publicly appealing for his

freedom amid growing fears about his physical and mental health.


AMANPOUR: Mary Rezaian, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Thank you for joining me. It must be agony for you.

How do you get through every day?

MARY REZAIAN: With prayers from people around the world and support and the incredible work that my older son is doing, Ali. He has been

working nonstop to get his brother released.

AMANPOUR: What do you know about how Jason is being treated?

MARY REZAIAN: Well, I know some things about the condition at the prison. I know that they're very sparse. I know that they're not very

clean. And I know that he has developed some health issues, which have not been attended to for a very long period of time. This is in addition to

his ongoing --


AMANPOUR: And his ongoing health issues are.?

MARY REZAIAN: -- he has an enlarged heart. And so he has been on blood pressure medication for many years. I realize that he's carried a

lot of weight around. He loves Persian food. But he's lost a tremendous amount of weight in a very short period of time, apparently, and that is

very harmful for a body.

AMANPOUR: You spoke to him on Thanksgiving. He was able to call you.


AMANPOUR: Did you expect it? Was it out of the blue?

MARY REZAIAN: It was out of the blue. It was out of the blue. I believe I can say that my daughter-in-law called me, frantically. She

said, the prison is trying to contact you. And -- oh, my, I'm seeing his picture and it's in front of me here.

The prison is trying to contact you and I said, well, I'm not home. We provided him with a number and then he immediately called. They had

given him a calling card.

AMANPOUR: And it was the first time you'd spoken since he'd been arrested.

MARY REZAIAN: Absolutely, yes.

AMANPOUR: And what did you talk about?

MARY REZAIAN: Well, we talked about how strange it was to be talking to one another that way. We were somewhat bemused because neither of --

neither of us had any advance warning.

We talked about past Thanksgivings with people who are now departed. We both choked up a number of times.

AMANPOUR: And they didn't want you to know that he was in a prison.

MARY REZAIAN: No. He said they want you to know that I am not in a prison. I'm in a detention center and that they're treating me very well.

AMANPOUR: So they just wanted to put their spin on it.

So now the big question, Mary, why did your son get arrested?

MARY REZAIAN: I wish I knew the answer to that. He is a credentialed journalist who's been working in Iran for over 10 years and has never done

anything to, in any way, bring attention to himself. So I don't know. And I really cannot comment about theories.

AMANPOUR: We have spoken -- and I have asked the top, top levels of the Iranian government from the president to the head of -- the speaker of

the Majlis to -- his own brother has been interviewed on this show, who is Iran's human rights chief.

What is it; why have they taken Jason? Now his brother has said that this whole situation is a fiasco.


AMANPOUR: He's also said the following -- and let's play a little bit about what Mr. Larijani told us.


ALI LARIJANI, CHAIRMAN, PARLIAMENT OF IRAN: Well, the prosecutor considered them accusations that could be, that could be well founded.

So during the court process, it will be definitely explained and determined whether they are serious charges or they could be dropped.

(END VIDEO CLIP) AMANPOUR: This was before he was charged.


AMANPOUR: He has now been charged.


AMANPOUR: And you see Mr. Larijani saying everything will be explained.

Has anything been explained?

MARY REZAIAN: Not to us. Not to us.

AMANPOUR: Do you know what he's been charged with?

MARY REZAIAN: I have no idea.

But I'm told that they are serious charges and that they relate to espionage.

AMANPOUR: Let me read you something that our own colleague, Anthony Bourdain, wrote in a -- in "The Washington Post," actually, shortly after

hearing that Jason had been arrested.

He basically says about Jason and his wife, "They are deeply proud of their heritage and the country they were helping to show me. They wanted

the best for it and they were great emissaries on its behalf."

I mean, there's no doubt in your mind that Jason was happy to be there.

MARY REZAIAN: No doubt whatsoever. He loves Iran and he took it upon himself to try to show modern Iran to the rest of the world, to the Western

world, that's been closed out for several years.

AMANPOUR: I want to play now a little bit of Jason's interview with Anthony Bourdain.


ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST: Do you like it? Are you happy here?

JASON REZAIAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Look, I am at a point now after five years where I miss certain things about home. I miss my buddies. I

miss burritos. I miss having certain beverages with my buddies and burritos --


JASON REZAIAN: -- in certain types of establishments. But I love it. I love it -- and I hate it. You know. But it's home.


AMANPOUR: So there he is, as natural as ever, saying "I love it; it's home."

How do you feel watching that?

MARY REZAIAN: I understand from Yegi that he still loves Iran, even during this detention.

AMANPOUR: And Yegi is Yeganeh --


AMANPOUR: -- his wife, who herself was arrested and is now, what, out on bail?

MARY REZAIAN: She's out on bail but, as she has said to me, they let me loose from the prison but I'm just in a larger prison. And until my

husband is released, I can't begin to live.

AMANPOUR: What is your hope and your fear for your son?

MARY REZAIAN: My hope is that the Supreme Leader will review his case and determine that it is baseless, that the charges are baseless and that

they will both be free to leave. Yegi has been told she cannot work.

AMANPOUR: Can she leave?

MARY REZAIAN: Not at this point. They have her passport.

AMANPOUR: Did you want to address something specifically to the Supreme Leader?


Respectfully, sir, I ask you free my son, Jason Rezaian. Jason loves Iran. He would never do anything to hurt Iran, to bring shame to Iran. It

is my intention to come to Iran. I'm asking, sir, for your time to sit and discuss Jason's case, also time with President Rouhani.

I'm asking that you allow me the time and the guarantee that I will be able to meet with my son and will be able to leave, I would hope, with both

Jason and Yeganeh.

AMANPOUR: It's a heartfelt plea.

Has Jason even had a lawyer?

Has he been visited by any kind of representation, whether it's diplomatic representation or legal representation?

MARY REZAIAN: Neither. We have hired a lawyer who represents Ali, my son, and I. But up until the time of the actual charges, Jason was not

permitted access to a lawyer.

AMANPOUR: So when you talked to him on Thanksgiving Day, did you think he was about to be released?

MARY REZAIAN: I did. I did. We had every expectation -- based in part on what Mr. Larijani and others have said, that things were

proceeding. And really, it's been a sort of a roller coaster over the last five months, because there have been numerous times when we thought we were

very close.

When Yeganeh was released, she was told, "Your husband will join you in a week or 10 days." So we were gearing up after that.

AMANPOUR: This is the first time you've spoken out.

Why have you not spoken in these several months since he has been in prison?

And now he is the longest serving Western journalist to be in an Iranian prison.

MARY REZAIAN: As I said, there were numerous times when we had indications that his release was imminent. There were also a number of

things happening in the world and we felt that this was the way to go.

Now that he has been charged -- and it sounds like they're very, very serious charges, which involve a long prison sentence, Jason is -- Jason's

health is in question. His continued mental state is in question simply because I understand he's been in chronic pain.

AMANPOUR: Did he sound fragile to you?

You talk about his mental -- I assume you mean his emotional state --


AMANPOUR: -- the psychological burden that he's under.

MARY REZAIAN: Yes, indeed.

AMANPOUR: Did he talk about that?

MARY REZAIAN: No. We did not address that at all.

AMANPOUR: And he's in solitary?

MARY REZAIAN: As far as I know, yes.

I asked him about his back pain because I had learned through relatives that that had become an issue and he said it's better; I have a

bed now.

So -- but I don't know if he still has a bed. I don't know if, after that phone call, things changed and he's back in solitary.


AMANPOUR: So you want to go and visit him?

MARY REZAIAN: I do want to visit him. Yes, I want to see how he is and to give him my support.

AMANPOUR: Mary Rezaian, we wish you luck and thank you very much for being here.

MARY REZAIAN: Thank you so very much.


AMANPOUR: And from a courtroom in Tehran to a courtroom in Pretoria, where murder charges against Oscar Pistorius are being reconsidered.

Is this a step towards justice for the family of Reeva Steenkamp? We speak to her mother, June, after a break.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back.

Now the case of Blade Runner versus top model: Oscar Pistorius charged with killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, gripped South Africa

and the world since the shooting nearly two years ago. And so the world was deeply divided after a judge did not find him guilty of murder; rather,

manslaughter, and sentenced him to five years in jail.

Well, this week the prosecution won the right to appeal and no one is more relieved than Reeva's grieving parents. The Steenkamp family was

shocked by the original verdict. Reeva's mother tells me they just want the truth and justice. And June has poured her pain into a book about her

daughter's life and work.

And as the lawyers continue to argue, she tells me about the foundation that she set up in Reeva's name to help female victims of

domestic violence in a country where three women every day are killed by their partner.


AMANPOUR: June Steenkamp, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Thank you for joining me. You have lived through something that really is so hard for anybody to understand. You've lost your


What made you write the book at this time?

STEENKAMP: I've written the book as a tribute to my daughter so that people won't forget her. And I wanted people to know exactly what she was

like. I mean, a lot of people loved her. She was lovable. She was beautiful inside and out.

AMANPOUR: What was that emotion that you must have felt the day the judge handed down her ruling, that it wasn't murder?

STEENKAMP: Shock. It was shock.

I really thought -- I really had shock. Everyone's got to remember what that judge, she's presented with the evidence; there's big pieces of

the puzzle that are missing. We don't know everything. Only Oscar knows and Reeva's not here anymore.

AMANPOUR: What do you think happened, knowing your daughter?

STEENKAMP: Well, I -- I've got my own opinion. I know that it's not -- everybody's got their own opinion. But I really believe, from all the

things that were read out in the court, the way he was treating her and trying to control her -- and she would never have allowed that. She was a

strong woman. And she was a powerful woman.

She was already a public figure. She had her own career. She didn't need to be Ms. Pistorius. She was Reeva. She would always want to be

Reeva Steenkamp.

AMANPOUR: What did she tell you about their relationship?

STEENKAMP: She said we are fighting all the time.

AMANPOUR: Throughout the time that they were together?

STEENKAMP: The whole time, from the beginning to the end, they were fighting. And as she wrote in those tweets in the -- you know, they were

read out in the court, she said, I always thought you'd proud to go out with me. But you pick on me constantly.

AMANPOUR: And yet there were affectionate tweets as well, messages, texts --

STEENKAMP: There was. I think there was a huge affection between them. And I think that's what made it so difficult.

AMANPOUR: When you came out of court after the verdict was read, it was said that the family was, quote, "satisfied" by that verdict and

wouldn't challenge it.

STEENKAMP: We didn't say we were satisfied with the verdict, but we were both satisfied when he went down the steps and he was taken to the

prison and locked up and all his luxuries taken away from him because he has to pay for what he's done. He cannot go and shoot someone.

AMANPOUR: In your book, you write, "Oscar's story I don't believe. It seems to me he did not look for her when he says he thought he heard


STEENKAMP: Exactly. I mean, if you were lying in bed with your husband or whatever or your wife and you hear a noise and you think there's

something wrong, the first thing you do, you don't call them and if there's no answer not worry about it. You go and get hold of them and say, listen,

there's a problem in the house.

AMANPOUR: So as a --

STEENKAMP: And you would keep that person with you to make sure that she was safe.

AMANPOUR: I want to play for you a little bit of an interview I did with John Carlin. You probably know him, the author who's responsible for

the book, "Invictus," and also wrote about Oscar Pistorius. This is what he said to me about the evidence in court.


JOHN CARLIN, AUTHOR: The point is that on the evidence that was provided in court, that was a legitimate, I think, judgment to reach and

certainly on the evidence in court, you could not conclude that he had intentionally killed his girlfriend.


AMANPOUR: Do you agree with that, on -- based on what was heard in court, that was the only verdict that could have been delivered?

STEENKAMP: There was too many question marks, too many -- there were no witnesses. This is another problem. Only he knows what happened.

AMANPOUR: And what do you hope will be the result of the prosecution trying to appeal and trying to get him a harsher sentence?

STEENKAMP: I just hope some truth comes out along the way. I'm hoping that it's a good thing because it's not dead yet, the case. It's

not -- you know, all through the case Reeva was the deceased. They seemed to forget that somebody like she died actually.

AMANPOUR: Yourself (sic) and Reeva's father had been separated for many, many years.

STEENKAMP: Yes, 14 actually.

AMANPOUR: This tragedy brought you back together again.

STEENKAMP: Well, we came back together because my daughter lived with me until she was 22 and we had a robbery during that time. And I -- we

were so devastated; they'd broke in the House, smashed all the windows and came in and ran around the house for 20 minutes while we were locked in our


AMANPOUR: So when -- that happened to you -- so you --

STEENKAMP: So she said you are going back to your father -- to my father. And we looked at each other and we said, well, it's been a long

time, 14 years ago. That's a lifetime. But we'll try, you know. We didn't have much choice because that's how she was. This is what's going

to happen.

AMANPOUR: So for you to be safe, she wanted you to go back to her father.

And happily ever after?

STEENKAMP: We are so happy today, I can't tell you. This brought us closer together. We're very, very happy.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, because what brought you together and what most --


AMANPOUR: -- but it was a crime. It was a household crime, the kind of crime that Oscar Pistorius said he thought was happening in his house.

So do you understand the adrenalin, the fear?

STEENKAMP: I don't think -- I don't think -- I don't believe the story. I don't believe that story.

Why didn't he call -- in four or five minutes, he could have had her out of the house. They could have gone out of the house. They could have

got away. Why didn't he just -- if she was leaving him and wanted to, he could have just let her go.

AMANPOUR: What would you say to him if you did meet him and did talk to him?

STEENKAMP: I would say to him, look what you've done to us. You destroyed our lives. You've taken the most precious thing that we ever had

in our lives. She was a gift from God to us. We doted on her. She doted on us.

And now we just want to -- with the book and what we're going to do for now abused women, we're going to have her foundation, the Reeva

Steenkamp Foundation against abuse of women.

And also I'd like to help other people who are going through what we've gone through, my husband and I.

AMANPOUR: June Steenkamp, out of the worst, worst, worst tragedy of your life, some good has come.

STEENKAMP: That's the good thing. This is a big point.

AMANPOUR: Thank you very much --

STEENKAMP: It's a pleasure. It's a pleasure.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, the pressures of a 21st century childhood as we fight to keep our children safe in the world.

Are we aware enough of the dangerous of online predators? We find out after a break.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we've heard the stories of two mothers trying to do their very best for the safety and the legacy of their

children. But imagine a world where, despite our best efforts to lock the doors and close the windows, we still struggle to keep our children safe

because the window to the Internet is always open.

It's a problem worldwide as the threat of online abuse grows. As accountable and punishment lag way behind. It's an issue that's keenly

felt here in the U.K., where a legal loophole is allowing offenders to walk free. It is against the law to send explicit images to a minor online.

But asking a child to provide one of themselves is not.

Now the British Prime Minister David Cameron has stepped in to close that loophole, himself the father of young children. He made the

announcement at the WePROTECT Children Online Summit in London.


DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER, GREAT BRITAIN: We've seen an increasing and alarming phenomenon of pedophiles contacting children online

over the Internet or on their mobile phones. And there can be no gray areas here. If you ask a child to take their clothes off and send you a

picture, you are as guilty as if you did that in person.


AMANPOUR: More than 50 countries have joined up, alongside leading tech companies and NGOs from across the world to sign an agreement that

declares war on the tide of online child abuse and porn.

This comes days after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two fierce advocates for children's welfare, Malala Yousafzai, the teenager who was

shot in the head for calling on every girl in Pakistan to have an education, and Kailash Satyarthi, who spent decades trying to free child

laborers in India.

Children, finally getting a voice and a seat online and at the top table.

That is it for our program tonight. And remember you can always watch the show online at, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.