Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post journalist who has been detained in Iran for more than a year on charges including espionage, has been convicted, according to Iran’s judiciary spokesman in a ruling the newspaper blasted Monday as “an outrageous injustice.”
Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi confirmed the verdict in comments aired on state TV late Sunday night but gave no indication of what punishment the 39-year-old Iranian-American journalist could face. The ruling is eligible for appeal within 20 days, Ejehi said.
“He has been convicted, but I don’t have the details,” Ejehi said.
In its report, Iranian state TV called Rezaian an “American spy.” He reportedly faces up to 20 years in prison.
The Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, called the guilty verdict “an outrageous injustice.”
“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. For now, no sentence has been announced,” he said in a statement Monday.
The paper is working with Rezaian’s family and legal counsel to swiftly appeal the verdict and push for his release on bail pending a final decision, Baron said.
“The contemptible end to this ‘judicial process’ leaves Iran’s senior leaders with an obligation to right this grievous wrong. 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.”
Baron reiterated the Post’s position that Rezaian is innocent and that he should be exonerated and set free.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said officials were closely monitoring reports of Rezaian’s conviction.
“We still have not seen any official confirmation of a verdict on specific charges or any further information,” he said. “Unfortunately, this is not surprising given that this process has been opaque and incomprehensible from the start. Regardless of whether there has been a conviction or not, we continue to call for the government of Iran to drop all charges against Jason and release him immediately.”
Iran has accused Rezaian, 39, of collecting confidential information and giving it to hostile governments, writing a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and acting against national security. The Post has dismissed the charges as absurd. The final hearing in his trial was on Aug. 10.
Jehl said the vague nature of Iran’s announcement showed that Rezaian’s case was not just about espionage and that the reporter was “caught up in this collision of forces who are at odds with each other”.
“We’ve already heard from President Rouhani and others that Iran is willing to move Jason’s case towards conclusion, if the United States will do something in return. So, I really think that the court process that’s been going on for months and months and months, in some ways, is just the first act that the final decision needs to be made by Iran’s highest authorities.”
Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani hinted last month at the possibility of freeing Rezaian, who has spent 447 days in prison in Tehran, in exchange for Iranian prisoners in the United States, but officials have played down the possibility of such a swap.
“Iran would like the world to believe that’s it’s changed. That it’s an Iran that’s open to the kind of nuclear agreement that was reached a couple months ago. Unfortunately, I think what we’re seeing in Jason’s case is would suggest that there’s a lot about Iran that hasn’t changed and that has to be disconcerting to anyone interested in reaching a long standing agreement with them,” said Jehl.
Rezaian’s brother Ali issued a statement on Friday noting the journalist had been in prison for 444 days, the same length of time that American embassy staff were held after the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
Two other U.S. citizens – Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant – also are being held in Iran. Robert Levinson, a private investigator, disappeared there in 2007.
Their cases have been raised in subsequent talks, including between Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when they met during the U.N. General Assembly in New York last month. No progress was announced.
Story from The Associated Press and Reuters.