Thirty-five years ago, Americans were transfixed by the drama of 52 U.S. diplomats and other citizens being held as prisoners in the U.S. embassy in Iran. Those hostages had been taken on Nov. 4, 1979, and were not freed until Jan. 20, 1981 – 444 days.

On Friday, The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian, a U.S. citizen and journalist seized in his home July 22, 2014, spent his 445th day in detention. Held in violation of Iran’s own laws, not to mention international conventions, he has become another de facto hostage.

Last week in New York, President Hassan Rouhani suggested that Rezaian and two other Americans jailed in Iran could be exchanged for 19 Iranians imprisoned in the United States. In essence, Iran’s president is openly wielding an innocent 39-year-old journalist as a bargaining chip to free people whom Rouhani says were prosecuted for violating U.S. sanctions.

We aren’t privy to those talks or to the identities of those Iran seeks to free. What we do know is that Rezaian has never been plausibly accused of a crime, or prosecuted according to Iran’s laws. His continued detention should be as intolerable to the United States as was the captivity of the American hostages 35 years ago.

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