Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian faced an Iranian court to defend himself against charges, including espionage, during a second closed-door session in Tehran on Monday.
Rezaian, who has been detained since July, has strongly rejected the allegations in previous statements made public via his family and Iranian media accounts.
Iran’s semi-official Tasnim News Agency said Rezaian, a California native who has dual U.S. and Iranian citizenship because his father was born in Iran, presented part of his defense in English during the hearing in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court. His statements were translated for the judge.
No reporters were in court, and the media accounts from Tehran provided no details of Rezaian’s statements in court. His attorney, Leila Ahsan, said she cannot publicly discuss the court proceedings. Under Iranian law, it is illegal to reveal details about a closed-door hearing.
“The second hearing in the trial of Jason Rezaian was held today examining the charges against him. Jason was in good spirits,” Ahsan told the Rezaian family, according to the reporter’s brother, Ali Rezaian.
Only a few, sparse details have emerged from the legal proceedings against Rezaian, 39, The Post’s Tehran bureau chief. And legal authorities appear to be trying to crack down on reporting on the case.
The Iranian Students News Agency on Monday quoted Iran’s prosecutor general, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, as saying that his office plans to investigate and prosecute another news agency that described parts of Rezaian’s first closed-door court appearance last month.
The semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Rezaian professing his innocence in court and reported that among the evidence against him was a visit he made to a U.S. consulate seeking a visa for his Iranian-born wife and a letter he wrote to President Obama in 2008 — material that was apparently taken from his confiscated laptop.
It is not known how Mehr obtained information from a court session from which the media and public were barred.
“Based on the current laws, making public the events of even a public trial is illegal,” Ejei said. “Not to mention that [Rezaian’s] trial is closed-session.”
There is no indication that anyone from Mehr has been called to the prosecutor’s office. Many other Iranian news agencies, all of which have ties to the government, have published some details about the case, and none has been prosecuted or ordered to stop reporting.
Monday’s session finished after about three hours, and it is unclear whether a third hearing has been scheduled.
Rezaian’s mother, Mary Breme Rezaian, described her son as “very tired, very distressed.”
Rezaian’s mother has been in Tehran for nearly a month and has been allowed to see her son twice during brief and monitored visits, the family said. She was not allowed in the courtroom Monday.
Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency said two other suspects appeared in court with Rezaian. Their identities were not immediately known.
Rezaian’s wife — Yeganeh Salehi, also a journalist — and a photographer have been charged on related allegations. But Salehi accompanied Rezaian’s mother on Monday, the Associated Press reported.
The closed-door trial has been condemned by journalism organizations, The Post and the State Department.
Deane reported from Rome and Murphy from Washington. Carol Morello in Washington contributed to this report.