FROM ITS beginning, the case of Jason Rezaian has been a showcase for the opacity, the brazen disregard for the rule of law and, ultimately, the sheer cruelty of Iran’s Islamic regime. Its latest twist is no different. On Sunday, Iranian state television reported that the 39-year-old Post reporter had been convicted in a trial that ended two months ago. Convicted of what? Punished with what sentence? We don’t know: The court’s spokesman told state television he didn’t have “the verdict’s details.” Nor, it appears, did Mr. Rezaian’s lawyer, who told the New York Times she had not been informed of the verdict and did not know whether Mr. Rezaian himself knew it.
Mr. Rezaian, who was arrested with his wife in their home on July 22, 2014, was held for months in solitary confinement without charge, in violation of Iranian law. He was then subjected to a secret trial on several charges, reportedly including espionage, in which the prosecution presented no live witnesses and no substantial evidence. Now, well after the deadline set by law, he has been subjected to a secret verdict. His lawyer, Leila Ahsan, told the Times that while an appeal is possible, she can’t contest a judgment she hasn’t seen. “Now, I do not know what I am appealing against,” she was quoted as saying.
This travesty ought to shame the Iranian government into releasing the journalist — if only to forestall questions from would-be international investors in Iran, who have to wonder whether their personnel will be vulnerable to similarly arbitrary arrests and secret trials. Instead, President Hassan Rouhani appears to hope that Mr. Rezaian can be used as a bargaining chip to obtain the release of 19 Iranians he says were imprisoned in the United States for violating sanctions. A state television report Monday may have been trying to advance this cause when it claimed that Mr. Rezaian had provided the U.S. government with information about individuals who engaged in sanctions busting.
Add that to the constantly shifting array of ludicrous charges that have been advanced by Iranian media against Mr. Rezaian since his arrest. Last week it was reported that he had conspired with U.S. senators to improve U.S.-Iranian relations, a development supposedly calculated to bring down the regime. What’s true is that Mr. Rezaian, who was born in California but is of Iranian heritage, pursued journalism in part to improve Americans’ understanding of Iran. Most people would consider that a good thing.
However, Mr. Rezaian never pursued any activity in Iran other than journalism, as the country’s senior officials well know. He was accredited by the government, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called him “a good reporter.” That he has been unjustly imprisoned for longer than the American hostages were held in Tehran in 1979-81 makes a mockery of Mr. Zarif’s claims that Iran wishes to improve its relations with the outside world. It reveals Iran as a country where the most basic norms of justice are still grotesquely flouted and where taking prisoners to use as pawns is still regarded as an acceptable form of diplomacy.
Iran has done extraordinary injury to Mr. Rezaian over the past 14 months. But the longer it holds him, the more damage it does to its international standing.