Tuesday is visitors’ day for Jason Rezaian, the day that Iranian authorities permit the imprisoned Washington Post journalist to see his mother and his wife.
As they have every Tuesday for the past few weeks, Mary Rezaian and Yeganeh Salehi arrived at Tehran’s Evin Prison in the morning and walked through a labyrinth of halls to a waiting car that drove them to another building housing a small salon furnished with chairs around a coffee table.
There they met, the two women sitting on either side of Rezaian, each holding one of his hands.
But this Tuesday’s visit was unlike any other over the past month and a half that Mary Rezaian has been in Iran for her son. They are waiting for an imminent verdict in the case against The Post’s Tehran bureau chief, who has been held for 13 months and is accused of espionage and other crimes.
The judge’s verdict could be handed down Wednesday. Or it may be next week. They have no hint when it will come, but they fear Rezaian will not be coming home anytime soon.
“It’s safe to say he’s steeling himself,” said Mary Rezaian in a phone call after the weekly visit. “He’s preparing himself to hear a verdict other than acquittal. A severe verdict, with a long sentence. We’re preparing ourselves for anything. It would be wonderful, a miracle, if he were acquitted, but I think it’s highly unlikely.”
During months of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, the United States repeatedly pressed Tehran to release Rezaian, 39, and at least two other Americans of Iranian heritage imprisoned there, plus provide information on a fourth man who disappeared during a 2007 visit. U.N. human rights officials also have called for Rezaian’s immediate release, saying his arrest on July 22, 2014, his lengthy detention and the secret trial are intimidating to journalists working in Iran. Senior Post editors and Rezaian’s family have said that Rezaian is innocent and that he was acting solely as a journalist before his arrest.
His final court hearing was Aug. 10, and Iranian authorities gave conflicting indications of when a verdict may come down. His lawyer said she expected it within a week. A judiciary spokesman said Sunday that it would be announced this week or next. But the head of Tehran’s justice department said that no verdict has been decided, and it may be some time before his fate is determined.
The wait is excruciating.
“The past week was the hardest for me,” said Mary Rezaian. “I see the stress within everybody, including myself. We get up, we go walking. We go around looking for books for Jason. We find ways to do something different. We’re trying to maintain as much sanity as we can.”
Mary Rezaian and Salehi, a journalist who was arrested with her husband but was released on bond until her own case comes up, have been allowed twice-weekly contacts with Rezaian.
Every Friday, each woman is permitted four minutes on a phone call with him, though Mary Rezaian said that the regularity of that depends to some degree on who the guard is on any given Friday.
Then there are the Tuesday visits. When Mary Rezaian arrived in Iran early this summer, she initially was separated from her son by a glass window and could speak to him only on a telephone. About a month ago, the judge issued an order that they be allowed to meet in the visiting salon.
Mary Rezaian said they know they are being watched and listened to. She said Jason frequently asks about his brother, Ali, who has put his life on hold as he campaigns for Iran to release Rezaian.
“He lives for his contact with us,” Mary Rezaian said of Jason. “Most of the time we’re together, we try to talk about happy things. Friends I’ve been in contact with. He wants to know about Ali and his family. We know there are cameras in the room. We figure our conversations are picked up.”
Although Rezaian has lost a lot of weight during his lengthy imprisonment, he is able to exercise regularly, “just trying to make himself healthy for when he’s released,” Mary Rezaian said.
Asked if her son believes he will be released eventually, she said: “Hope springs eternal. He’s always been an optimistic person. It may not be this week, or next month. But he’s innocent, I know that.”