THE FRAUDULENCE of Iran’s prosecution of The Post’s Jason Rezaian is perfectly captured by the public statements of Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, the first deputy chief justice of the judiciary, who frequently holds news conferences in Tehran. Last July, Mr. Mohseni-Ejei was asked about the status of Mr. Rezaian’s trial, which was being held behind closed doors. “The trial will continue and when the verdict is issued we will announce it to people,” he said.
Mr. Rezaian’s trial apparently ended Aug. 10. But to this day, no official verdict has been announced or communicated even to the U.S. journalist’s lawyer. Nor has a sentence been made public. Instead, Mr. Rezaian’s family has had to contend with confusing and contradictory statements by Mr. Mohseni-Ejei and other officials, which together demonstrate that nothing resembling a legitimate process — even under Iran’s laws — has taken place.
For example, on Aug. 9, the day before Mr. Rezaian’s final known court appearance, the semiofficial Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) quoted Mr. Mohseni-Ejei as saying that “this person has already been sentenced, but I don’t know the details of the verdict.” Six days later, he changed his story: The same news agency quoted Mr. Mohseni-Ejei as saying the court was still waiting for a written plea from Mr. Rezaian’s attorney. “I’m not allowed to give any details, but I assume that a judgment will be issued at the end of this week or next,” he said. Meanwhile, another judicial official, Gholam Hossein Esmaeili, was quoted the same day by the same agency as saying that no verdict was expected anytime soon.
On Aug. 30, Mr. Mohseni-Ejei offered a third account: He didn’t know whether a verdict in the Rezaian case had been reached. “But the final session took place two weeks ago,” he offered. On Oct. 11, Mr. Mohseni-Ejei told reporters that a verdict had been “issued” but didn’t say what it was. Other Iranian reports said Mr. Rezaian had been convicted on charges of espionage. That, however, wasn’t the end of it. On Nov. 3, ISNA spoke again to Mr. Esmaeili, who said the case was not completed, and that a new hearing was scheduled for Nov. 16. “This case is still in court and the judiciary’s spokesman” — that would presumably be Mr. Mohseni-Ejei — “will make an announcement once it has come to a conclusion,” Mr. Esmaeili was quoted as saying.
Nov. 16 came and went. But on Sunday, Mr. Mohseni-Ejei once again said that Mr. Rezaian had been “sentenced to prison ,” the same account he had offered on Aug. 9. He added that the verdict “has not officially been handed down” and was “not finalized.” Meanwhile, Mr. Rezaian’s lawyer, Leila Ahsan, told the Associated Press she had not been informed about a verdict or a sentence.
What could explain this welter of misinformation? 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. 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.