After being imprisoned in an Iranian jail for nearly nine months, Washington Post reporter and Tehran’s bureau chief Jason Rezaian has been formally accused of being a spy. As reported by the Iranian Fars news agency, Iran’s hard-line Revolutionary Court now says that Rezaian passed sensitive economic and industrial information to unnamed Americans.
The court declared that Rezaian's actions damaged Iran’s national security. Fars, a semi-official state organ, was quoted by the Post as saying, “Selling Iran’s economic and industrial information at a time of sanctions is exactly like selling food to the enemy at a time of war.”
Commenting on the accusation, Martin Baron, executive director of the Post, said, “It has been nearly nine months since Jason was arrested. Now comes word via an Iranian news agency that Jason will face espionage charges. Any charges of that sort would be absurd, the product of fertile and twisted imaginations. We are left to repeat our call on the Iranian government to release Jason and, in the meantime, we are counting on his lawyer to mount a vigorous defense.”
A State Department official quoted by the Post concerred. "These charges are absurd, should be immediately dismissed and Jason should be immediately freed so that he can return to his family," he said.
Rezaian, 38, is a dual Iranian-American citizen, and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, 30, who is a journalist for the National, a English-language newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, were arrested on July 22. Salehi was released on bail in early October, but Rezaian was denied bail as well as access to a lawyer. Other than his wife, Rezaian was denied visitors.
A short while ago, his court-appointed lawyer, Leila Ahsan, was allowed to visit Rezaian in the notorious Evin prison, where he is being held. Ahsan reported that Rezaian was in good condition.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Ahsan said, “He appeared to be in good health and spirits. I can see him anytime. Jason asked me to provide a strong defense. I’m in constant touch with his wife and family. I’ve requested that the court hold the trial as soon as possible.”
After being held for nearly four months, Rezaian was formally charged in a 10-hour court proceeding. However, those charges were not made public. Further, at the time, the Washington Post reported that the charges were not even clear to those in the court.
In September, in an interview with National Public Radio, Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said Rezaian was being questioned "for what he has done as an Iranian citizen."
Iran has repeatedly rejected overtures by the U.S. government about the case as Iranian law does not recognize dual citizenship.