Iranian judiciary authorities have referred the case of a detained Washington Post journalist to Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, a news agency reported Wednesday, in a move that appears to set the stage for a review before a possible trial.
A statement by Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, cited by the semiofficial Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA), said the court file on Jason Rezaian has moved to the Revolutionary Court for “processing.”
The phrase suggests that the charges against him, which have not been made public, could be studied by the court before it decides whether to set a trial date or keep the case in a holding pattern. The Revolutionary Court handles Iran’s most sensitive cases.
Dolatabadi’s brief statement said, “After the issuance of indictment, the case against Jason Rezaian has been referred for processing to Tehran’s Revolutionary Court.”
Rezaian, The Post’s bureau chief in Tehran, has been held in an Iranian prison for more than five months without access to a lawyer.
He was officially charged Dec. 6, but he does not know the exact allegations against him, other than that they pertain to purported “activities outside the bounds of journalism,” his mother and brother said in a recent interview.
Martin Baron, executive editor of The Post, said in a statement: “We still do not know what charges the Iranian authorities have brought against our correspondent Jason Rezaian, but we hope the referral of his case to a Revolutionary Court represents a step forward toward Jason’s prompt release.
“This step gives Iran’s judiciary an opportunity to demonstrate its fairness and independence by determining that the charges are baseless. We call on Iran to make these charges public, to allow Jason access to a lawyer and to bring a swift and just resolution of a six-month-long nightmare that has been extremely difficult for Jason and his family.”
Secretary of State John F. Kerry and other U.S. negotiators have repeatedly raised Rezaian’s case during talks on Iran’s nuclear program. Rezaian, 38, has dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship.
Earlier Wednesday in Geneva, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in remarks before a series of meetings with Kerry that his government is willing to provide “humanitarian assistance” to Rezaian as courts work to resolve the case.
“The government is doing its best to be of assistance,” Zarif said. But he said the case remained under the jurisdiction of Iran’s powerful judiciary, which is directly overseen by the ruling clerics.
“This is a judicial matter, so we will have to wait for the judiciary to move forward. But we will try to provide all the humanitarian assistance that we could,” he said.
“We hope that this issue will be resolved,” Zarif said.
He also said he was pleased that Rezaian’s mother was able to visit him in prison twice at the end of December.
Mary Breme Rezaian expressed alarm over her son’s weight loss and concern for his health, which has deteriorated during his lengthy confinement.
She also met with her son’s “interrogator,” ISNA said, citing the prosecutor’s statement.
Kerry raised the issue of Rezaian’s detention in his meetings with Zarif, according to senior State Department officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive negotiations.
One of them said the United States was aware of the reports that Rezaian’s case has been referred to a court. “We continue to monitor the situation closely and are seeking further information,” the official said.
The State Department officials also said Kerry expressed concern for three other Americans in prison or otherwise unaccounted for in Iran. Among the three is Amir Hekmati, a Marine veteran who has been held by the country since August 2011.
Hekmati, who has dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship, was captured while visiting his grandmother in Iran, his family says. Tehran has accused him of being a CIA spy, a charge that Hekmati and the U.S. government deny.
Morello reported from Geneva.