The family of a Washington Post reporter imprisoned in Iran for more than half a year has engaged a prominent defense attorney known for taking sensitive cases involving Americans ensnared in legal issues in the country.
The brother and mother of Jason Rezaian contacted Masoud Shafii, according to Ali Rezaian, the reporter’s brother. Reached by phone, Shafii confirmed that he had agreed to seek the court’s permission to take the case.
Shafii represented three American hikers detained in Iran from 2009 to 2011 on accusations of spying. After his clients were released, Iranian security forces searched Shafii’s home and interrogated him for several hours, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Rezaian, The Post’s Tehran bureau chief, has been held in Iran since July. The exact charges against him have never been made public, beyond a statement by officials saying he is accused of activities outside the bounds of journalism.
The case of Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, a journalist who was arrested with him but later released on bail, has been assigned to a Revolutionary Court judge known for his harsh sentences. Iranian court officials have said the case is expected to proceed to trial sometime soon.
During his almost seven months in detention, Rezaian has never been allowed to see a lawyer. The Rezaian family initially had contacted another defense lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, but he was never granted permission to see the detained journalist.
Nikbakht said Friday that he had advised the family that another lawyer would be better for Rezaian.
Ali Rezaian expressed hope that Shafii’s involvement would be a turning point in his brother’s defense. “After several weeks of searching we have found an independent lawyer to represent Jason,” he said. “Mr. Shafii is a well-respected lawyer with a history of working cases involving foreign nationals and dual citizens, and we believe he can effectively provide Jason’s defense. We have requested that Mr. Shafii go to the court as soon as possible to file the appropriate paperwork so that he can be registered as Jason’s lawyer, meet with Jason, review the case file and begin the process of defending Jason against these baseless charges.”
In a statement, Martin Baron, executive editor of The Post, called Rezaian’s continued detention “a gross injustice.”
“We’re pleased that an Iranian lawyer is willing to take Jason’s case as it now proceeds to trial, and we are very hopeful that he can help,” Baron said.
“It’s important to note, however, that Jason still hasn’t been able to see a lawyer,” he said. “His unwarranted arrest, his detention in a horrible prison for months without charges, the long period of inadequate medical care, the failure even today to publicly specify the charges against him, and the continued delay in granting him effective legal representation add up to a gross injustice. And it warrants worldwide condemnation.”