Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian will go on trial Tuesday on espionage charges in a Tehran courtroom that will be closed to the public, including his family.
Martin Baron, executive editor of The Post, said in a statement released Monday that both Rezaian’s mother and his wife, a journalist who also faces related charges and will be tried separately, have been barred from attending. The Post tried to obtain a visa for an editor to be in Iran during Rezaian’s trial, but its inquiries were not answered, Baron said.
In recent days, the State Department and the Committee to Protect Journalists have called on Iran to open the proceedings in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court to the public, to no avail.
The court’s spokesman told reporters in Tehran that only the judge in the case can decide to make a trial public or comment on it.
“This decision by the trial to be open to the public or closed is dependent on the judge’s decision based on the content of the file case, and no one else can comment on it,” he said.
Baron called the treatment of Rezaian in the Iranian justice system “shameful” and “disgraceful.”
“There is no justice in this system, not an ounce of it, and yet the fate of a good, innocent man hangs in the balance,” Baron said. “Iran is making a statement about its values in its disgraceful treatment of our colleague, and it can only horrify the world community.”
The trial of Rezaian, The Post’s Tehran bureau chief who was born and raised in California and holds dual citizenship, is the climax of his 10 months in detention since he was arrested July 22. During months of nuclear negotiations with Iran, the State Department has repeatedly raised the case of Rezaian and two other Americans already convicted in Iran, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati and pastor Saeed Abedini, as well as a missing former FBI agent, Robert Levinson.
Rezaian’s case has attracted international condemnation, in part because several journalist organizations have campaigned on his behalf.
“Iran must end this travesty of justice immediately,” said Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. “After more than 300 days of unwarranted detention, the least Iran could do is to release Rezaian on bail and grant his employer entry to the country and access to the legal proceedings.”
It is difficult to know exactly what the case against Rezaian is based upon, because the proceedings have been secretive. What is known comes mostly from sparse Iranian media accounts and from what Rezaian’s brother, Ali, has said.
Rezaian has been held in Evin Prison, notorious as a place where political prisoners and journalists have been taken for interrogation. His initial months were spent in solitary, and he suffered health problems exacerbated by his lengthy confinement, although he eventually was allowed outside to see physicians.
His case was assigned to a judge known for his harsh sentencing in the past, which has included the death penalty for anti-government protesters.
Rezaian’s family had to seek out several lawyers before recently finding one who agreed to take the case and who the court would accept as counsel. They have met only once to discuss the case, for about 90 minutes. She has told the Iranian media that Rezaian is accused of four serious charges including espionage in what she said stemmed from his journalistic pursuits.
“No evidence has ever been produced by prosecutors or the court to support these absurd charges,” Baron said Monday. “The trial date was only disclosed to Jason’s lawyer last week. And now, unsurprisingly but unforgivably, it turns out the trial will be closed.”
Rezaian’s mother, Mary Rezaian, has been in Tehran for the past two weeks hoping to attend her son’s trial, but she will not be permitted in the courtroom, according to Baron. Nor will his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, an Iranian national who was arrested along with Rezaian and later released on bail.