The following is a full statement from Washington Post’s executive editor Martin Baron on the charges against The Post’s Tehran correspondent, Jason Rezaian.
After nearly nine months of indefensible silence, Iran’s courts have finally shed light on their supposed case against The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian, who has been held in the notorious Evin Prison since July 22.
Jason’s lawyer, Leila Ahsan, was permitted to hold her first substantive meeting with Jason at the Revolutionary Court today in Tehran, spending 90 minutes with him in the presence of an official translator. Afterward, Ms. Ahsan issued a Farsi-language statement “based on the indictment’’ against Jason showing that he is being charged with four serious crimes, including espionage. We understand that these charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison.
The grave charges against Jason that Iran has now disclosed could not be more ludicrous. It is absurd and despicable to assert, as Iran’s judiciary is now claiming, that Jason’s work first as a freelance reporter and then as The Post’s Tehran correspondent amounted to espionage or otherwise posed any threat to Iranian national security.
Jason is an accredited journalist whose fairness and professionalism have earned him public praise even from Iran’s president and Iran’s foreign minister. Whatever its motive, Iran’s judiciary is presenting the claims that are transparently baseless. The charges include “conducting propaganda against the establishment,’’ “collaborating with hostile governments,” and “collecting information about internal and foreign policy and providing them to individuals with malicious intent,’’ according to the lawyer’s statement.
If there is any hint of light in Iran’s levying of these chilling charges, it is that Iran’s accusations against Jason will soon be heard in the court of public opinion and also in a court of law, albeit in a Revolutionary Court before a judge whose unfairness has already earned him sanctions from the European Community for violations of human rights.
It is important to note that the judge, Abolghassem Salavati, did not permit Jason to choose his own counsel, rejecting several initial choices. We continue to believe that Jason’s defense team should be permitted to grow to include additional lawyers of his choosing.
We call on Judge Salavati and the Iranian judiciary to depart from past practice and instead demonstrate to the world that they can indeed render a fair and impartial judgment in the Iranian system.
We know that Jason and his lawyer, Leila Ahsan, are preparing for a trial, which if conducted fairly, will finally allow them to show Iran and the world that these charges are absurd and scurrilous. Jason’s wife, Yeganeh Saleh, who is also a journalist, also faces an impending trial on an equally baseless charge.
In the more than 260 dark days that have passed since Jason and Yegi were detained, Iran has shown only disdain for the concepts of humanity, fairness and the rule of law that it purports to embrace. The manufactured charges against Jason and Yegi that Iran’s courts are now putting forth represent propaganda, not justice. The world will be watching; any just outcome to this tragic charade can result only in Jason and Yegi’s exoneration and immediate release.
Martin Baron , executive editor, The Washington Post