World | Middle East

October 12, 2015

Iranian TV Says Post Correspondent Jason Rezaian Convicted

Jason Rezaian, The Washington Post correspondent in Tehran imprisoned for more than 14 months has been convicted in an espionage trial that ended two months ago, Iranian State TV has reported.
Jason Rezaian

Jason Rezaian

News of a verdict in Tehran's Revolutionary Court initially came early Sunday, but court spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei did not specify what the judgment was. In the State TV report late Sunday night, Ejei said definitively that Rezaian was found guilty.

But many details remained unknown. Rezaian faced four charges — the most serious of which was espionage — and it's unclear if he was convicted of all charges. Rezaian and The Post have strongly denied the accusations, and his case has drawn wide-ranging denunciations including statements from the White House and media freedom groups.

It also is not known what sentence has been imposed. The judge who heard the case is known for handing down harsh sentences, and Rezaian potentially faces a sentence of 10 to 20 years. It is not even known if Rezaian himself has been informed of the conviction.

Reflecting the murky nature of the trial that was held behind closed doors, Iranian TV quoted Ejei saying: "He has been convicted, but I don't have the verdict's details."

Martin Baron, executive editor of the Post, called the guilty verdict “an outrageous injustice” and “contemptible.”

“Iran has behaved unconscionably throughout this case, but never more so than with this indefensible decision by a Revolutionary Court to convict an innocent journalist of serious crimes after a proceeding that unfolded in secret, with no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing,” he said in a statement.

The Associated Press reported that Leila Ahsan, Rezaian’s lawyer, said on Sunday that “there are no new developments” and that she had not received the verdict yet. She could not be reached immediately for comment on Monday.

But Baron said there would be an appeal, and Ahsan is expected to ask the court to release Rezaian on bail until a final resolution is made. Under Iranian law, Rezaian has 20 days to appeal.

“The contemptible end to this ‘judicial process’ leaves Iran’s senior leaders with an obligation to right this grievous wrong," Baron said. “Jason is a victim — arrested without cause, held for months in isolation, without access to a lawyer, subjected to physical mistreatment and psychological abuse, and now convicted without basis. He has spent nearly 15 months locked up in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, more than three times as long than any other Western journalists.

“The only thing that has ever been clear about this case is Jason’s innocence,” Baron continued. “Any fair and just review would quickly overturn this unfounded verdict. Jason should be exonerated and released; he and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi , who has been out on bail, should both be granted, without delay, the full freedom that is their right.”

Rezaian, 39, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, was arrested on July 22, 2014. He has been held since in Evin Prison, where many political prisoners are detained and interrogated. His trial was cloaked in secrecy, with even his wife and mother denied permission to attend. Rezaian's brother, Ali, could not be immediately reached for a comment on the conviction.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has repeatedly suggested a prisoner exchange in recent weeks. He has said Iran might push to expedite freedom Rezaian and two other Iranian-Americans if the United States released Iranian citizens convicted of sanctions violations. Saeed Abedini of Boise, Idaho, is a pastor imprisoned for organizing home churches. Amir Hekmati of Flint, Mich., is a former Marine who has spent four years in prison since his arrest during a visit to see his grandmother.

Rezaian's case attracted international attention as an example of Iranian government repression, despite its desire to emerge from decades of isolation and re-engage with the world.

The judge at the May 26 proceeding read the indictment against Rezaian, and the session was adjourned after about two hours. No family members or independent observers were allowed to attend.

Three subsequent sessions were held, one of them a day before the conclusion of a July 14 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, including the United States. The court held its final hearing in the case on Aug. 10, Rezaian’s attorney said. She did not provide details.

On the first anniversary of his detention, The Post formally petitioned the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for help in securing Rezaian’s release. The Post accused the Iranian government of flagrant human rights violations during the “arbitrary and unlawful” detention of the journalist.

The head of the working group and two other U.N. human rights experts expressed grave concern on Aug. 14 about his continued incarceration, saying that his legal rights and due process had been ignored and calling for his immediate release.

Top Iranian officials in September floated the idea of a prisoner exchange involving Rezaian and at least two other Americans held in Iran, but the Post reporter remained incarcerated while passing a grim milestone. By Oct. 10, he had been detained longer than the 52 Americans held during the Iranian hostage crisis three decades ago.

Text by The Washington Post
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