FOR MONTHS, senior Iranian officials have tacitly acknowledged that the imprisonment of The Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent, Jason Rezaian, is unjust. The secretary of Iran’s Human Rights Council, Mohammed Javad Larijani, called it a “fiasco”; in early November he expressed the hope that the case would be dropped “in less than a month.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in September that he knew Mr. Rezaian to be “a fair reporter” and “had hoped all along that his detention would be short.”
That makes it particularly shocking that Mr. Rezaian would have been charged by a court on Saturday in Tehran. The nature of the charges has not been disclosed, nor has any evidence against Mr. Rezaian been publicly presented by Iranian officials. As of Monday he had been imprisoned for 139 days, longer than any Western journalist who has been detained in the country.
As Mr. Rezaian’s family and the State Department have pointed out, the conditions in which he has been held violate Iran’s own laws. He has been denied access to a lawyer as well as bail. He has not been allowed any visitors other than his wife, who was arrested with him on July 22 and released in early October. His physical and psychological health are suffering; his family says he suffers from high blood pressure, an eye infection and back pain.
Most important, Mr. Rezaian “should never have been arrested and imprisoned in the first place,” as Post Executive Editor Martin Baron recently put it. A dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, Mr. Rezaian returned to Iran as a journalist because he hoped to promote understanding between the two countries. Since 2012 he has reported for The Post not just on political developments in Tehran but also on social issues and cultural developments, including a nascent Iranian appetite for baseball.
As Secretary of State John F. Kerry put it in a statement Sunday, “Jason poses no threat to the Iranian government or to Iran’s national security.” Haleh Esfandiari, a Washington-based Iranian American scholar who was imprisoned in 2007, pointed out last week that the very fact Mr. Rezaian was held for so long without charge suggests that Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has been struggling to concoct a case that would hold up even in Iranian courts.
Mr. Kerry said that he was “personally dismayed and disturbed at reports” of Mr. Rezaian’s prosecution “as I have repeatedly raised Jason’s case . . . directly with Iranian officials.” Separately, Mr. Kerry said in an appearance at a conference Sunday that an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program could be reached in three or four months. That assertion was jarring in light of Mr. Rezaian’s case, along with the disclosure than Iran may have illicitly sought equipment for a nuclear reactor. If Iranian officials are unresponsive in the case of Mr. Rezaian, how can they be expected to deliver on commitments they make with respect to the nuclear program?