US President Joe Biden has issued an executive order to expand tools available to deter and disrupt hostage-taking and wrongful detentions of Americans. 

Declaring a urgent need to deal with this threat, Biden on Tuesday authorized agencies to impose costs and consequences, including financial sanctions and visa bans, on malicious actors involved in hostage-taking, and charges agencies with developing new methods to deter hostage taking.

Foreign governments and human rights organizations have accused Iran of detaining foreigners and dual nationals on trumped up charges to use them for getting concessions from Western countries. US citizens Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer (Bagher) NamaziEmad Shargi, and Morad Tahbaz and permanent resident Shahab Dalili are among the dual nationals or foreigners held in Iran on such charges. Iran also holds citizens of several countries including Germany, Austria, and Sweden, as de facto hostages.

In the executive order, known as Bolstering Efforts to Bring Hostages and Wrongfully Detained United States Nationals Home, Biden said “Terrorist organizations, criminal groups, and other malicious actors who take hostages for financial, political, or other gain — as well as foreign states that engage in the practice of wrongful detention, including for political leverage or to seek concessions from the United States.”

The US government must redouble its efforts at home and with partners abroad to deter these practices and to secure the release of those held as hostages or wrongfully detained, read the order. 

“I therefore determine that hostage-taking and the wrongful detention of United States nationals abroad constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” he said.

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