After a sham trial in secret, Iran has sentenced a Washington Post reporter accused of espionage 16 months after his arrest — but, like his trial and conviction, the details are a mystery.
“The verdict has been issued but has not been officially handed down to the accused or his lawyer. … Given the fact that the verdict has not been officially handed down, I cannot reveal the details but what I can say is that the accused has been sentenced to prison,” judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei said, according to Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim news agency.
Rezaian, who has reported from Tehran since 2008, was seized on July 22, 2014, in a raid on his home. His wife, Yeganeh Salehi, an Iranian who reported in Tehran for the UAE newspaper The National, was released on bail in October 2014.
In a June House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Rezaian and the other American hostages in Iran — Marine vet Amir Hekmati, Idaho pastor Saeed Abedini, and retired FBI agent Bob Levinson — Jason’s brother Ali told lawmakers that “while in prison, Jason has suffered painful and debilitating infections, and he has lost more than 40 pounds.”
“He also has chronic high blood pressure and a respiratory condition that is exacerbated during the hot summer months in Tehran. He is often kept in solitary confinement, and allowed only minimal human interaction,” Ali continued.
There hasn’t been any statement from the White House on the latest news regarding Rezaian’s fate.
Chief of Staff Denis McDonough mentioned Rezaian and the other hostages held by Iran in a speech two weeks ago to the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly. “We continue to call on Iran to release these detained Americans and to work with us find Robert Levinson, who is still missing,” McDonough said. “And we are not going to stop working until we bring these Americans home to their families.
The State Department likewise didn’t issue official comment on Rezaian’s sentencing, telling CNN they “cannot confirm the details…at this time.”
“If true, we call on the Iranian authorities to vacate this sentence and immediately free Jason so that he can be returned to his family,” a spokesperson said.
The Washington Post was not reserved with their outrage, slamming in an op-ed today the “welter of misinformation” coming from Iran regarding their Tehran bureau chief.
“Possibly Mr. Rezaian is being dangled by the regime as bait for a prisoner exchange. Maybe he is a pawn in a power struggle between the hard-line judiciary and the government of President Hassan Rouhani. We don’t pretend to know,” the WaPo said. “What ought to be clear is that Iran is subjecting an American citizen and respected journalist to extraordinarily cruel and arbitrary treatment — and that it is doing so with impunity.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has been working this year with Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) to try to get the administration to act on Rezaian’s case, today ripped the report of Rezaian’s “sickening” secret sentencing on “made-up charges.”
“Jason is the longest held international journalist by Iran, and he deserves to be free. Instead, the kangaroo courts in Iran’s justice system have already forced Jason to languish in their jails for over 16 months, with details of his new prison sentence still unknown,” Rubio said.
“It is unacceptable that the Obama Administration missed an opportunity to make the freedom of Jason – as well as Amir Hekmati and Pastor Saeed Abedini, and obtaining information about missing Floridian Robert Levinson – a priority in its negotiations with Iran. Jason should not be behind bars for his profession as a journalist, and he should be released unconditionally. Today, my thoughts and prayers are with the Rezaian family as the Iranian regime continues to use Jason as a pawn.”