Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post correspondent accused by Iran of espionage who has been imprisoned for more than 10 months, went on trial in a Tehran courtroom on Tuesday morning, state news media reported.
The trial, which is not open to the public, began at 10:30 a.m. at Branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported.
The trial was adjourned after two hours, and the judge in the case, Abolghassem Salavati, will announce a date for the resumption of the proceedings, IRNA reported.
The nature of the charges against Mr. Rezaian, 39, was not disclosed until last month, when his lawyer, Leila Ahsan, said they included espionage. Ms. Ahsan has been permitted to meet with Mr. Rezaian, a dual Iranian-American citizen, only once.
The Iranian government is presenting two pieces of evidence of espionage, Mr. Rezaian’s brother, Ali Rezaian, said: an American visa application for Yeganeh Salehi, Jason Rezaian’s wife, an Iranian citizen and a journalist, 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. It is unclear why the Iranian authorities believe those documents to be incriminating.
Judge Salavati has a reputation for tough sentences that led the European Union to place him on a blacklist in 2011 for human rights abuses. He has ignored foreign requests for court access.
“If Iran had a case against Jason Rezaian, it would try him in public,” Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, wrote on Twitter. “It doesn’t and won’t.”
The trial is expected to last two to three days, Ali Rezaian said in a telephone interview from California, where he and his brother were born and grew up, adding that the lawyer had told the family of the judge’s decision on court access only on Monday. He denounced the decision, calling it “unconscionable.”
A senior editor of The Washington Post applied for a visa to attend the trial but was unsuccessful.
“The shameful acts of injustice continue without end in the treatment of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian,” the executive editor of The Washington Post, Martin 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 Ms. Salehi were arrested in July at their home in Tehran. Ms. Salehi was released on bail after a few months and warned not to discuss the case; Mr. Rezaian has remained in prison, where he has been interrogated and denied medical treatment and legal counsel.
The prosecution of Mr. Rezaian is now seen as a bargaining element in the negotiations between the United States and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program. Last month, congressional lawmakers, who will have a say in any agreement between the United States, its negotiating partners and Iran, voiced their growing anger over the incarceration of Americans in Iran.
“Iran should release all detained Americans immediately and provide any information it possesses regarding any Americans that have disappeared within its borders,” Representative Dan Kildee, Democrat of Michigan, said in a news conference last month in Washington. Though he said that the nuclear and prisoner issues should remain separate, he acknowledged that members of Congress were upset over what many regard as Iran’s use of American hostages for negotiating purposes.
Iran is holding at least two other Americans, in addition to Mr. Rezaian. Amir Hekmati, 31, of Flint, Mich., is a Marine veteran whose parents emigrated from Iran. He was seized while visiting relatives in August 2011 and convicted of spying. Saeed Abedini, 34, of Boise, Idaho, is a Christian pastor who has been imprisoned since 2013 on charges of disturbing national security.
A day before Mr. Kildee’s news conference in Washington, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told an audience at New York University that he hoped that Mr. Rezaian — whom he called a “friend” — would be cleared of the charges against him.
“I hope that no one – nobody will be lingering in prison, including a lot of Iranians who committed no crime across the world but are waiting in prison to be extradited to the United States for violating U.S. sanctions, which are illegal anyway,” Mr. Zarif said on April 29, adding that Mr. Rezaian “will have to face a court.”
Rick Gladstone contributed reporting.
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(via NY Times)