The lawyer for a Washington Post journalist facing trial in Iran on charges including espionage pressed Tuesday for his immediate release from prison following the nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers, according to Iranian media.
Her comments did not, however, include details of the next step in the closed-door proceedings against Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who has been in Iranian custody for more than a year. He has denied all the allegations against him.
Last week, President Obama said U.S. officials will not “relent” until Iran frees Rezaian and two other American citizens known to be detained there. Obama also demanded that Iran offer further information on the whereabouts of a former FBI agent who was last seen in that country in 2007.
Rezaian’s lawyer, Leila Ahsan, was quoted by the semiofficial Tasnim and Fars Iranian news agencies as saying that the nuclear deal reached this month should spur Rezaian’s release from Tehran’s Evin Prison. The accord, which limits Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the easing of international sanctions, still must clear several hurdles, including a review by U.S. lawmakers.
Ahsan also alluded to new Iranian laws that Rezaian’s family has insisted prohibit holding someone in detention for more than a year on charges other than murder. “He has been jailed over a year and . . . keeping him in jail is illegal based on Iran’s new penal code,” she said.
Ahsan did not suggest that an immediate release was likely. She said last week that she believes the next hearing in the case in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court could bring the trial to a close, but a date for that hearing has not been set.
Ahsan was unavailable Tuesday for further comment. She is barred from discussing the case with journalists outside Iran.
Rezaian, 39, The Post’s bureau chief in Tehran, was detained July 22, 2014, along with his Iranian wife and two photojournalists, and has reportedly been accused of espionage and engaging in “propaganda against the establishment.” His wife, Yeganeh Salehi, a correspondent for the National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, was later released on bail. One of the photojournalists also faces charges related to the case.
Rezaian’s case has prompted worldwide appeals for his release, including a letter last week from media freedom group the Committee to Protect Journalists, asking the head of Iran’s judiciary to intervene to free Rezaian, a dual citizen of Iran and the United States.
In a separate initiative, The Post submitted a petition to a U.N. panel on arbitrary detention that outlines what the Post described as Rezaian’s mistreatment, including long stretches of solitary confinement, and says Iranian authorities have produced “nothing to justify the charges.”
The Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, also has repeatedly called for Rezaian’s release and has described the charges as groundless.
Two other American citizens are held by Iran.
Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor, has been in Iranian custody since September 2012. He was later convicted of security-related charges that include claims of proselytizing.
Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine, was detained in August 2011 while on a family visit to Iran. He was convicted in early 2012 on espionage and other charges. A death sentence was later reduced to 10 years in prison, according to the family’s Web site.
A former FBI agent and CIA contractor, Robert Levinson, was last seen publicly in March 2007 on the Iranian resort island of Kish, where he was investigating cigarette smuggling on behalf of a client. Iran denies knowledge of Levinson’s location or any involvement in his disappearance.
A video circulated in December 2011 purported to show Levinson but offered no clear indication of his whereabouts. Iran denies that it is holding him.