Trial of Jailed Wash Po Reporter Jason Rezaian Begins in Iran

The trial of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, detained in Iran since June for colluding with "hostile governments" and other charges, began Tuesday. (Photo credit: Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)

The trial of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, detained in Iran since June for colluding with ‘hostile governments’ and other charges, began Tuesday, and its proceedings will be private. (Photo credit: Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)

The trial of a Washington Post reporter detained in Iran on charges of espionage and promoting propaganda began Tuesday, according to a report from his employer.

Jason Rezaian has been detained in the country since last June on four charges that include “collaborating with hostile governments” and “propaganda against the establishment,” according to his attorney as reported by the Post. After nearly a year in detention, a trial date has been set to begin today, Tuesday, May 26, the Post reported Monday, adding that the court proceedings are expected to be closed to the public.

In a statement released on Monday, the paper’s executive editor Martin Baron called Rezaian’s detention a “shameful act of injustice” and criticized the Iranian government for failing to hold a fair and impartial trial for the journalist.

“It will be closed to the scrutiny it deserves,” Baron said.

Baron said that Rezaian was originally arrested and imprisoned in Iran without charges, “placed in isolation for many months and denied medical care he needed.” He added that the journalist will be tried in front of a judge that is “notorious for human rights violations,” including sentencing anti-government protesters to death.

Rezaian’s charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 to 20 years. The length of his incarceration — nearly a year now — is the longest of any foreign journalist working in the country.

An indictment handed down against Rezaian in April accused the journalist of writing a letter to President Obama as proof of his collusion with so-called “hostile governments,” his attorney Leila Ahsan said. He was also accused of collecting classified information, Ahsan told the newspaper.

Ahsan said the charges against her client had nothing to do with national security, and that they stemmed from his journalistic endeavors as a reporter with the Post covering Iran. Ahsan said a recent meeting with her client — the only such meeting since his imprisonment — lasted just 90 minutes at Iran’s notorious Evin Prison. The facility is known to be, among other things, an interrogation center mostly for the country’s political prisoners.

The White House, the State Department and numerous press freedom groups have criticized Iran’s handling of the case. At a press briefing last month, White House press secretary Josh Earnest called the charges against Rezaian “absurd” and encouraged Iran to dismiss them “immediately.”

“Jason should be freed immediately, so that he can return home to his family,” Earnest said.

Sherif Mansour, a coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, called on Iran to “end this travesty of justice immediately,” adding that “After more than 300 days of unwarranted detention, the least Iran could do is to release Rezaian on bail and grant his employer entry to the country and access to legal proceedings.”

The Post said it has tried to obtain visas to cove Rezaian’s forthcoming trial, but those efforts have been fruitless. Baron said the paper tried to secure work authorization for a journalist — whom Baron only identified as a “senior editor” — to travel to Tehran for the trial, but that the request had “gone unanswered by the authorities in Tehran.”

“There is no justice in this system, not an ounce of it, and yet the fate of a good, innocent man hangs in the balance,” Baron said. “Iran is making a statement about its values in its disgraceful treatment of our colleague, and it can only horrify the world community.”

Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine

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