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June 17, 2020





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Jason Rezaian Released

Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post correspondent, was arrested in July 2014 with his wife, also a journalist, and charged with a number of offences, including espionage.

The fourth hearing of his trial was held on August 10th 2015. On October 11th, Iranian media reported that judicial authorities had issued a verdict in Rezaian's case, but provided no further details. 

On January 16th 2016, Rezaian was released along with three other US prisoners in an alleged prisoner swap. The Iranian judiciary announced the release of Jason Rezaian, former marine Amir Hekmati, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari. The four were said to have been released as part of a prisoner exchange, in which seven Iranian-US dual nationals were released from prison in the United States. Six of the seven were awaiting trial. 


The arrest

On July 22nd 2014 security forces raided Rezaian's house, confiscated his notebooks and laptop and arrested him, his wife and their two guests, an Iranian-American photographer and her husband. “Jason Rezaian knew he was being watched,” the New York Times reported on August 7th. “A man on a motorcycle had been following him and his wife for weeks, his colleagues said. The tail was so blatant that Mr. Rezaian (…) had even managed to take a picture of the license plate.”

After being arrested in July 2014 the authorities did not release information about the charges against them and where they were being held for many months. Shortly after the arrests, Rezaian’s wife made one phone call to her family in which she told them she was at a “party” but there was no contact for quite some time after that. 

Salehi was released on October 6th 2014. The two unnamed journalists arrested on the same date have been released on bail but no additional information has been made available.

On September 23rd 2014, IranWire reported that the Revolutionary Guards' Intelligence Unit obtained a forced confession from Jason Rezaian under duress. In a brief conversation, an Iranian security official who withheld his name due to the sensitivity of this e case told IranWire that the Guards pushed Rezaian to confess in order to “influence Iran's nuclear negotiations with Western powers, including the United States.”

The official that IranWire spoke with clarified that Rezaian and his wife were arrested separately to their guests at the time. He also said that the caretaker killed during the arrests was in charge of the building that the other two journalists lived in; their identities are still unknown. The caretaker’s family is being pressured to not talk to the media.

A hardliner site reported: “After Jason Rezaian was confronted with videos and evidence from intelligence agencies, he admitted he was connected to Western intelligence agencies. He and his wife now live in a safe house in Tehran and enjoy the pool and their favorite foods.”

Sources told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the “top-ranking officials in the Iranian Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches were uninformed regarding the details of the arrests. Iran’s Prosecutor General and Spokesperson for the Iranian Judiciary, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, told reporters on July 25th that he was not informed of the detentions.

“I have no information about this case. You must give me time to clarify everything,” he stated, as reported by the Fars News Agency. In New York, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that he and President Rouhani have tried hard to ensure the couple are well-treated but adding that Rezaian faces serious allegations but without elaborating what they are.

Rezaian was reportedly held in Ward 2-A of Evin Prison. On October 30th 2014, Rezaian’s 100th day of imprisonment, his family released an online statement calling for Iranian authorities to release him. The family also referred to Rezaian’s arrest as a “farce”.  A US State Department spokesperson called for his release on the same day.

According to Human Rights Watch and other sources, authorities told Rezaian on November 18th 2014, that his case was still being investigated and that he would continue to be held in Evin Prison. Rezaian's brother confirmed on December 3rd that the family had been informed that the Rezaian’s detention would be extended. It is not known why there was a delay between the decision being reached by the judiciary and the family being informed.

In an exclusive interview with EuroNews in November 2014, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, secretary of the Iranian Judiciary’s High Council for Human Rights, said that Rezaian would soon been pardoned and released. Regarding the charges against him and the case’s progress, he told the news site “I’m not in a position to judge, I’m just reporting that security officials filed charges against him that he was involved in activities that went beyond journalism.” When pressed for clarity, he added “activities that breach the security of the state.” Despite Larijani’s comments, Rezaian remains in jail with no evidence to suggest he will be pardoned.


The trial

Rezaian was officially informed of the charges against him on December 6, 2014. However it was only five weeks later that details regarding his case, particularly his whereabouts, were announced.

On January 14th, Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency said Rezaian had been charged and would be tried in a Revolutionary Court. At the time, authorities did not outline the charges against him or say when the trial would begin. Tehran’s Attorney-General Abbas Jafari said investigations had been completed. Rezaian spent close to five months in solitary confinement.

Tehran’s attorney general also reported that Rezaian’s mother had traveled to Iran and met the magistrate in charge of her son’s case who provided no new information regarding which branch of the Revolutionary Court would try Rezaian or what he was accused of doing. 

Authorities formally charged Rezaian with espionage and three further offences, all of them serious, on April 20th, 2015. He met with his lawyer, Leilah Ahsan, for the first time since his arrest on the same day. Martin Baron, the Washington Post’s executive director, condemned the charges against the journalist.

Rezaian, who has declared his innocence, could face up to 20 years in prison. Four hearings have been held in his trial. Rezaian's lawyer, Leila Ahsan, was told the fourth hearing, which was held on August 10th, will be the last before a verdict is reached.

On October 11th 2015, Iranian media reported that judicial authorities had issued a verdict in Rezaian's case. Judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei said a court had convicted Rezaian and that he had 20 days to appeal the decision. He provided no further details. 

On November 22nd 2015, the news emerged that Rezaian had been sentenced to an unspecified prison term. “I cannot disclose details of the sentence, but what I can say is that he’s been sentenced to prison,” judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei said during a news conference. He also told reporters, however, that while the verdict had been issued, it had not been officially handed down to Rezaian or his lawyer and that it was “not finalized.” He added that the possibility of an appeal remained.


Espionage accusations

Iran's Revolutionary Guards have accused Rezaian of hatching an elaborate espionage operation on behalf of the United States government prior to his arrest in July 2014.

On October 4th, the spokesman for parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Nozar Shafiyee, told Fars News Agency that intelligence officials from the Revolutionary Guards had discovered that Rezaian had worked with the United States government on a plot to topple the Iranian regime. Jason Rezaian was given the "duty" of carrying out US Senate plans to "revive its pre-Revolution relations with Iran" and overthrow the government, Shafiyee said, citing a recent report by the Revolutionary Guards.

On October 20th, Fars News Agency set out further claims that Rezaian had orchestrated a major espionage operation — and that President Rouhani’s administration was probably aware of his conduct. The agency, which is closely affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, published a lengthy but vague outline of the charges against Rezaian, using these claims to make direct attacks against Rouhani.


Prisoner swap

Iranian officials have repeatedly raised the idea of a prisoner swap, suggesting that Americans jailed in Iran could be exchanged with the Iranians held by the United States for violating sanctions. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said in an interview with CBS in September 2015 that he is open to some kind of prisoner swap.

On January 3rd 2016, an Iranian official said that unnamed Americans had contacted Iran to arrange a prisoner swap deal for Jason Rezaian. “Some Americans contact us sometimes, asking us to exchange him with other detainees, but the sentence has not been announced yet,” judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei was quoted as saying by Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency.

According to a Reuters report on January 12th, Iranian officials met with Iranian prisoners in the United States to see if they would be willing to return to Iran if a prisoner swap was agreed.

News of Rezaian's release emerged on the same day the nuclear deal came into effect. 

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