The family of a Washington Post journalist imprisoned in Iran for almost eight months on Thursday appealed to the government in Tehran to release him on bail for the Persian new year.
On Jason Rezaian’s 233rd day in captivity, his brother, Ali, asked Tehran to temporarily free him to spend Nowruz, the spring solstice that begins March 21, with his wife and her family.
“It’s a time for new beginnings,” said Ali Rezaian in a news conference at the National Press Club. “It’s a time for generosity and mercy.”
The press club announced it was giving a press freedom award to Rezaian, The Post’s Tehran bureau chief who was arrested July 22 last year on charges that remain vague. The John Aubuchon Award, named after a past president of the club, will be presented at a dinner on July 29.
“We expect Jason will be free to collect this award,” said John Hughes, president of the club.
Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, were picked up by Iranian security forces who raided their home and carted away notes, laptops and books. She was released two months later, but Rezaian has been held twice as long as any other Western journalist in Iran. Ali Rezaian said his brother was interrogated about his e-mails, visitors and phone records.
After several lawyers trying to represent Rezaian were rejected by the court, Rezaian’s family hired a new lawyer. Ali Rezaian said she has not yet been able to consult with her client.
During talks with Iran over its nuclear program, Secretary of State John F. Kerry has repeatedly brought up Rezaian’s case and those of two other Americans being held in Iranian prisons. But because Rezaian holds dual nationality, the Iranian government says the U.S. government has no right to interfere.
Douglas Jehl, The Post’s foreign editor, said he expected Kerry would ask about Rezaian when the nuclear talks resume next week in Switzerland.
“Iran’s representatives can show the world their commitment to following the rules and give Jason the just and fair treatment he deserves,” Jehl said.
At the news conference, the press club released a letter addressed to Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, the Iranian judiciary chief, expressing “grave concern” over Rezaian’s detention and what it called “the ongoing disregard for the legal protections assured its citizens by the Iranian constitution.”
The letter was signed by more than a dozen prominent journalists, including Christiane Amanpour, Anthony Bourdain, Anderson Cooper, Steve Kroft and Ann Curry, as well as Martin Baron, executive editor of The Post.
Ali Rezaian recalled how their mother traveled to Iran last December and visited her son in jail. He gave her a message for his only sibling:
“Tell Ali to get me out for my birthday.”
Jason Rezaian turns 39 on Sunday.