Trial of Washington Post reporter in Iran to start next week

May 19, 2015, 5:00 AM

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The trial of a Washington Post reporter detained in Iran for nearly 10 months will begin next week, a defense lawyer representing the Iranian-American journalist said Tuesday.

State TV and other news outlets quoted an unnamed judiciary official as saying the first session of the trial of Jason Rezaian, 39, will be held next Tuesday. The official did not say whether the hearing would be open to the public.

It said two other suspects who were detained alongside Rezaian will also be tried.

Rezaian’s defense lawyer, Leila Ahsan, confirmed the report. She told The Associated Press that she learned of the hearing from news outlets but confirmed the news with the court.

Ahsan said Rezaian will go on trial alongside his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who is a reporter for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, and a freelance photographer who worked for foreign media. The photographer’s name has not been made public.

Ahsan reiterated that Rezaian has been charged with “espionage” and other offenses, and said it was not yet clear whether the trial would be open. Ahsan declined to comment further because of the sensitivity of the case.

Iranian officials have previously said Rezaian will stand trial in a Revolutionary Court, which mainly hears sensitive cases in closed sessions.

Rezaian, his wife and two photojournalists were detained on July 22 in Tehran. All were later released except Rezaian, who was born and spent most of his life in the United States, and who holds both American and Iranian citizenship. Iran does not recognize dual nationalities for its citizens.

U.S. officials have repeatedly pressed Iran to release Rezaian and other jailed Americans, including during talks on the sidelines of negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran and world powers hope to reach a comprehensive agreement on its contested nuclear program by the end of June.

The Post also has repeatedly criticized Rezaian’s detention and the handling of his case, and alleges he has been subjected to harsh interrogations and lengthy stretches of time in solitary confinement. It says he has only been allowed one substantive meeting with his lawyer — in the presence of official translators — to prepare for trial.

“The serious criminal charges that Jason now faces in Iran’s Revolutionary Court are not supported by a single fact,” Executive Editor Martin Baron said in a statement Tuesday after the court date was announced.

“The proceedings against him have been anything but fair and open – if they had been, Jason would never have been subjected to outrageous prison conditions, obstacles to selecting a lawyer, limited time to prepare a defense, and an inadequate window on the case that Iran plans to bring against him.”

The judge assigned to hear the case, Abolghassem Salavati, is known for his tough sentencing and, according to the Post, rejected several other choices of lawyers to represent Rezaian. Salavati has presided over numerous politically sensitive cases, including those of protesters arrested in connection with demonstrations that followed the 2009 presidential elections.

Baron said a lack of evidence should have led to the case being dismissed long ago. The Post is trying to secure an Iranian visa that would allow a senior editor to be present during the trial, but previous requests have gone unanswered, he said.

He urged Iran to make the court proceedings public and transparent.

“Iran must now belatedly demonstrate that it can act with openness and fairness,” he said. “The world will be watching.”

___

Schreck reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Trial of Washington Post reporter in Iran to start next week