Secretary of State John F. Kerry said he was “deeply disappointed and concerned” that charges have been brought against The Washington Post’s bureau chief in Tehran more than four months after he was detained.
Jason Rezaian, an Iranian American who holds dual citizenship, was brought before a judge Saturday in Tehran to hear charges officially leveled against him and was denied his request for bail, according to a source familiar with the case. The specific charges are unknown.
Kerry said Sunday he also was distressed that Rezaian has not been allowed to speak to a lawyer hired by his family, which Kerry called a “clear violation of Iran’s own laws and international norms.”
Rezaian’s brother, Ali Rezaian, said in an interview Sunday that Iranian authorities have “bent over backwards to bend and break their own rules to keep him in jail longer.”
Rezaian’s family also issued a statement saying, “Our family is deeply saddened.” The statement continued: “In its ongoing disregard of Iran’s own laws, the Iranian judiciary has continued to deny Jason access to legal representation, denied his request for bail, and prevented access to review of his case file.
“This continued disrespect for Iran’s judicial system should be a concern not only to the international community who are eagerly awaiting normalization of relations with Iran, but also to all those Iranians who claim that Iran is a country of laws which should be recognized as such by major world powers.”
Kerry and other State Department officials have raised Rezaian’s case, and those of other Americans detained in Iran, in negotiations with Iran over a potential deal to decrease Iran’s nuclear capacity in exchange for an easing of international sanctions.
“I am personally dismayed and disturbed at these reports as I have repeatedly raised Jason’s case, and the other cases of detained or missing U.S. citizens, directly with Iranian officials,” Kerry said in a statement posted on the State Department’s Web site.
He noted that the Iranian government has denied repeated requests for Switzerland, which represents U.S. interests in Iran, to visit Rezaian, making it impossible to check on his physical condition and ensure that he is receiving legal advice.
“Jason poses no threat to the Iranian government or to Iran’s national security,” Kerry said. “We call on the Iranian government to drop any and all charges against Jason and release him immediately so that he can be reunited with his family.”
The months Rezaian has spent in prison have taken a physical and emotional toll, Ali Rezaian said.
He has developed multiple infections that the family is concerned could cause permanent damage if untreated. He has seen a doctor twice and has received blood pressure medication, but it is different from the type he usually takes, his brother said. And he has developed back pains from sleeping on the floor.
Ali Rezaian said his brother also has been struggling under the psychological pressure of repeated interrogations and concern for his family. Rezaian’s wife, journalist Yeganeh Salehi, was arrested with him, but was released on bail in October. She is the only person allowed to visit him.
“It says something about the kind of guy Jason is,” Ali Rezaian said. “He’s repeatedly mentioned to Yeganeh that he’s worried about me and my mom, and the impact this might have on my 6-year-old son. While he’s locked up in jail for months, he’s concerned about what it’s doing to our family.”
“The fact they had him for 137 days before charging him shows you how little they had,” his brother said. “They have nothing to charge him with. Because he hasn’t done anything wrong.”
Iranian authorities last month said Rezaian’s detention has been extended until mid-January because the investigation against him is continuing. Until Saturday, no charges had been lodged against him since his July 22 arrest.
In a recent interview with France 24 television, the secretary of Iran’s Human Rights Council, Mohammad Javad Larijani, said he hoped that Rezaian’s case would be presented to court “as soon as possible . . . Let us hope that this fiasco will end on good terms.”