NEW YORK — Iran’s president would not promise Wednesday to intervene in or to speed up the legal case against a Washington Post reporter who has been detained in that country for more than two months.
Hassan Rouhani did not reveal what charges reporter Jason Rezaian may face or give any details about his detention. Rezaian and his wife, Iranian journalist Yeganeh Salehi, were arrested in Tehran on July 22.
“The individual who you name is being investigated. He is in detention being investigated. During this time a multitude of things can change,” Rouhani said during a forum sponsored by the New America Foundation. “At a time when a file, a case, is being built and the prosecutor is working hard to send that case file to the appropriate court,” it is inappropriate to discuss charges, Rouhani said.
Charges would be announced when the file is referred to court, he said. A swift resolution of the case and leniency for Rezaian are matters that can be discussed only “after the final judgment has been rendered,” Rouhani said through an interpreter.
“Any individual who is brought up on any charges or detained, all these steps must be in accordance with the laws of the country,” Rouhani said. “We must not prematurely express any opinions about a case file that has not reached the court yet.”
Rouhani noted that the executive branch of government he heads can sometimes inquire about the circumstances of someone’s detention, a reference that may have been an oblique way of saying he intends to weigh in on a case that has embarrassed his nominally reform-minded administration.
But when pressed, Rouhani would not pledge to make any such intercession in Rezaian’s case.
Rouhani expressed optimism that his nation can reach an accord with world powers over its nuclear program, and said that while he and President Obama may be able to cooperate on many issues in the future, resolution of the nuclear issue must come first.
“There is a saying in Farsi that goes something like, ‘Let’s raise this baby that we just gave birth to before we go on to number two,’ ” Rouhani said.
Rouhani is in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly, which he is scheduled to address on Thursday. The Iranian leader was elected last year amid high hopes for political reform and a possible deal to resolve years of international concerns about whether Iran is seeking the ability to build a nuclear weapon. Those negotiations have bogged down, and many are skeptical about a comprehensive deal being agreed upon by the November deadline. Iranian and U.S. diplomats blame one another.
Earlier Wednesday, Obama said the United States seeks a diplomatic resolution of the standoff with Iran over a program Iran says is entirely peaceful and aimed at energy production.
“This can only take place if Iran seizes this historic opportunity,” Obama said during his address to the United Nations.
“My message to Iran’s leaders and people has been simple and consistent: Do not let this opportunity pass. We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your program is peaceful.”