Cynthia Dwyer: 53rd Hostage


Cynthia Dwyer: 53rd Hostage


On April 10, 1980, Cynthia Dwyer, a 49 year old wife and mother of three young children, decided to travel to Iran to learn more about the revolution that had toppled the Shah, and to find out anything new about 52 people from the American Embassy in Tehran who had been taken hostage on November 4, 1979 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Mrs. Dwyer, a freelance writer and book editor, had obtained an Erie County Sheriff’s press card and had a long history of taking up causes of the underdog. Despite warnings that travel to Iran could be dangerous, she made the journey, only to be arrested on May 5th, 1980 and charged with being a spy for the CIA.

She may have been set up for arrest by possible agents of the revolutionary government who had spoken to her of a plan to free five American hostages separated from the larger group. There had earlier been an aborted U.S. rescue attempt that ended with a helicopter crash and the loss of eight American service personnel.

Inside the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, Mrs. Dwyer said she was subjected to about 50 hours of interrogation. She was quoted as saying she “heard executions of many Iranians accused of treason.” She later said she had lived in “constant fear of death” during her nine months of incarceration.

On February 4, 1980, two weeks after the 52 hostages were released, Cynthia Dwyer was tried and convicted of espionage. She had been denied a lawyer and called the proceedings a “kangaroo trial…complete nonsense.” However, five days later, thanks, in part, to intervention by the Swiss government, Mrs. Dwyer was released by the Ayatollah Khomeini and expelled from Iran.

She arrived at Kennedy Airport in New York on February 11, 1981 and was immediately reunited with her family. Her husband, John Dwyer, Chairman of the English Department at Buffalo State College, had kept Cynthia’s story in the headlines. WIVB-TV news reporter Rich Newberg had established a trusted relationship with the family and provided Buffalo, CNN, and CBS Newsfeed with updates during Mrs. Dwyer’s ten-month odyssey.




Rich Newberg Reports Collection


WIVB (Television Station: Buffalo, N.Y.)
Buffalo & Erie County Public Library (publisher of digital)


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