Ignoring foreign requests for court access, the Iranian judge presiding over the espionage case against Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter imprisoned for 10 months, has barred everyone except the defendant and his lawyer, Mr. Rezaian’s brother said Monday on the eve of the trial.
Not even Mr. Rezaian’s mother and wife, who as of last week had been led to believe they would be allowed to attend, will be permitted in the courtroom, the brother said.
Mr. Rezaian, 39, was scheduled to appear Tuesday in the Tehran Revolutionary Court branch of Judge Abolghassem Salavati, known as “the judge of death” for tough sentences and a reputation that led the European Union to place him on a blacklist in 2011 for human rights abuses.
Mr. Rezaian’s lawyer, Leila Ahsan, expects the trial to last two to three days, the defendant’s brother, Ali Rezaian, said in a telephone interview from California, where the Rezaian family children were born and grew up.
Ali Rezaian said the lawyer had informed the family of the judge’s decision on court access early Monday. Both he and The Washington Post strongly criticized the decision, saying it only strengthened their assertions that the prosecution was groundless.
“Why is it that the trial is not public?” he said. “I don’t know the right word to say. Unconscionable.”
Martin Baron, the executive editor of The Washington Post, which had sought a visa to allow a senior editor to attend the trial, said in a statement that the request went unanswered.
“The shameful acts of injustice continue without end in the treatment of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian,” Mr. Baron said. “Now we learn his trial will be closed to the world. And so it will be closed to the scrutiny it fully deserves.”
Mr. Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, were arrested last July in a raid on their Tehran home. Ms. Salehi was released on bail after a few months and warned not to discuss the case, while Mr. Rezaian has remained in Evin Prison, interrogated, denied medical treatment and legal counsel. He has lost more than 40 pounds.
The exact nature of the charges against him was not disclosed until last month, when Ms. Ahsan, who has been permitted to meet with Mr. Rezaian only once, said they included four counts, one of which was espionage.
On Friday, the Committee to Protect Journalists, an advocacy group in New York, called on the Iranian authorities to ensure a “fair and transparent trial” for Mr. Rezaian.
“Iran must end this travesty of justice immediately,” said Sherif Mansour, the group’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “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 the legal proceedings.”
The prosecution of Mr. Rezaian has become an increasing irritant in the difficult relations between Iran and the United States and is widely viewed as an Iranian bargaining element in the negotiations over Iran’s disputed nuclear program, which face a June 30 deadline for completion.
Political analysts have said they believe that the outcome of the Rezaian case, as well as those of two other Americans imprisoned in Iran, are in some way dependent on the success or failure of the nuclear negotiations.
Ali Rezaian said their mother, Mary, had been visiting Iran for the past few weeks in the hope that she would be permitted to attend the trial. He said it was further understood that Ms. Salehi — who is also represented by Ms. Ahsan — would be tried with him, or at least allowed to attend his trial.
“Now they’re saying not only is the trial going to be closed, but my brother is going in there by himself, with his lawyer,” he said.
The two pieces of what the government is claiming to be evidence of espionage, the brother said, are an American visa application for Ms. Salehi, an Iranian citizen, and a form letter sent by Mr. Rezaian to Barack Obama’s 2008 White House transition team offering help to improve relations between Iran and the United States. Why investigators consider those documents incriminating is unclear.
Judge Salavati permitted Mr. Rezaian’s mother and wife to visit him for an hour in prison last Wednesday, the brother said, and the mother intends to remain in Iran at least until the trial is concluded.
In summarizing how the mother described the meeting, Ali Rezaian said his brother was not only angry with the Iranian government, but also frustrated over the American failure to secure his release.
“It’s unfair, he knows he’s innocent, he’s not giving up, and he wants to make sure people know this is just a sham,” he said.
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(via NY Times)