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Spy Trial of Washington Post Reporter Begins in Iran

Source: VOA

The espionage trial of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian began Tuesday in Iran with the proceedings closed to the public, and ended about two hours later, according to news media.

Free Jason
artwork by Molly Crabapple

The state-run IRNA news agency said the trial was being held in a Revolutionary Court, which typically hears cases involving national security.

"The date of the next hearing will be announced later,"MizanOnline quoted an informed source as saying as it reported the end of the session, according to the French news agency AFP. The trial is expected to last two to three days.

IRNA said Judge Abolghassem Salavati would decide on the date of the next one, without providing further details. Rezaian's lawyer, Leila Ahsan, could not immediately be reached for comment, The Associated Press reported.

No details released

Iranian authorities have not released details of any charges. However, in a report by Reuters, lawyer Ahsan told the Tasnim news agency, "He (Rezaian) has been charged with espionage for collecting confidential information ... and handing it to hostile governments, writing a letter to Obama, and acting against national security."

Rezaian was arrested last July and held for months in Iran's notorious Evin prison without being charged or allowed to visit with a lawyer. He has since been allowed one brief meeting with a lawyer and charged with spying and propaganda.

His wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and a woman described as a freelance photojournalist were detained with him in July but later released. Last week Rezaian's lawyer said Salehi, who is a reporter for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, and the photographer, who worked for foreign media, will also stand trial, but IRNA gave no details of their charges. The photographer's name has not been made public.

Jason Rezaian with his wife Yeganeh Salehi

Rezaian's brother, Ali, said authorities are holding the trial behind closed doors not for security reasons, but because they know they have no evidence.

"Trying to make a case that there is some kind of security reason that the trial should be closed is absolutely ridiculous," he said. "It's absolutely unfounded. I think the only reason you could possibly imagine that the trial would be closed would be to prevent people from seeing the lack of evidence."

Ali Rezaian also said his brother Jason, the Post's Tehran bureau chief who is from Marin County, California, had lost 18 kilograms (40 pounds) while in prison.

Release sought

The Washington Post and the U.S. State Department have repeatedly called for Rezaian's release, saying he did nothing wrong in his work as a reporter.

U.S. President Barack Obama has called the charges against Rezaian "vague" and pressed Iran to release all American detainees.

Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron called Iran's treatment of Rezaian "shameful acts of injustice."

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

In a statement released May 25, Baron said: "It's worth recalling what kind of system we're dealing with. Jason was arrested without charges. He was imprisoned in Iran's worst prison. He was placed in isolation for many months and denied medical care he needed. His case was assigned to a judge internationally notorious for human rights violations.

"He could not select the lawyer of his choosing. He was given only an hour and a half to meet with a lawyer approved by the court. No evidence has ever been produced by prosecutors or the court to support these absurd charges. The trial date was only disclosed to Jason's lawyer last week. And now, unsurprisingly but unforgivably, it turns out the trial will be closed," Baron's statement continued.

The rights group Committee to Protect Journalists has also demanded Iran immediately end what it called a "travesty of justice."

CPJ Middle East coordinator Sherif Mansour said the least Iran could do is grant Rezaian bail and allow Post officials entry to the country.

U.S. officials have also raised the Rezaian case with Iran at the nuclear negotiations.

Some material for this report came from Reuters, AP and AFP.

... Payvand News - 05/26/15 ... --

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