THE ABSURDITIES in Iran’s prosecution of Post reporter Jason Rezaian on bogus espionage charges continue to pile up. The last of four sessions of his trial was held on Aug. 10, and a spokesman for the judiciary said Sunday it was the final session. Iranian law says a verdict must be issued within a week of a trial’s conclusion. It also says no suspect may be held for more than one year without conviction. Yet Mr. Rezaian remained in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison on Monday, 405 days after his arrest, and no verdict in his case has been announced. His lawyer says she does not know why; she speculates that a verdict may have been issued but not revealed even to her.
The delay, secrecy and blatant violation of Iran’s own laws betray both the weakness of the charges against Mr. Rezaian and the use of the case for political purposes. The purported evidence in the case is a disgrace to the Iranian judiciary: It reportedly includes an unsuccessful 2008 online job application by Mr. Rezaian to President-elect Obama’s transition team and a visa application submitted to a U.S. consulate for his Iranian wife. Several of the developments in the case occurred in concert with the international negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, prompting many analysts to conclude that hard-liners in the regime were persecuting Mr. Rezaian in an attempt to undermine Tehran’s chief negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who has called the Post journalist a “friend.”
If that is true, then the fact that Mr. Rezaian remains imprisoned, in violation of Iran’s laws, suggests that Mr. Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani have been unable to gain control over factions whose cooperation will be essential if the nuclear deal is to be successfully implemented. That ought to be a red flag for the Obama administration as well as for the five other governments that are parties to the deal, and it should be given some weight by those in Congress still considering whether to support the accord. We concluded in July that the deal is preferable to the alternatives — but the failure to release Mr. Rezaian since then is deeply troubling.
The Rouhani government has a clear opportunity in the next two weeks to rectify the injustice done to Mr. Rezaian and to reassure the international community of its readiness to honor the nuclear accord. The annual United Nations General Assembly session begins on Sept. 15, and the deadline for a congressional vote on a nuclear deal is days later. Tehran can send a clear signal to both bodies by releasing Mr. Rezaian and the other Americans it is holding before those events.