WASHINGTON – One year after the arrest of journalist Jason Rezaian in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Washington Post Wednesday submitted a petition to a United Nations human rights group asking it to advocate for Rezaian’s release.
“This petition, which we are making available today, makes it clear that Jason’s detention is arbitrary and unlawful under both Iranian and international law,” John B.”Jay” Kennedy, Washington Post vice president and general counsel, said. “It requests that the working group issue an urgent appeal to Iran, declaring that his detention is unlawful and he must return home.”
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention investigates cases of unlawful detention and lobbies government bodies to release detainees.
Rezaian, 39, from Mill Valley, Calif., was the Washington Post Tehran bureau chief when he was arrested at his home in Iran. His wife, Yeganeh Salehi, 30, a journalist from Tehran, was also arrested but released on bail 72 days later. Charges against Rezaian include collaborating with a foreign government and espionage. If convicted he faces a 10 to 20 year prison sentence.
“Since that night, Jason has been held in Evin Prison. During this time he has been subject to months of interrogation, isolation and threats,” Ali Rezaian, 44, Jason’s Rezaian’s brother and a biotech consultant, said. “He has been deprived of basic medical attention, exacerbating minor medical issues, and risking permanent physical harm.”
Kennedy, Ali Rezaian and Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron held a press conference Wednesday at the National Press Club to again call for Jason Rezaian’s release. The group detailed what they consider to be Jason Rezaian’s unlawful trial process.
Ali Rezaian said his brother was held for nearly nine months without being able to hire an attorney. Once he did secure an attorney, Jason Rezaian was only able to meet with her twice. His trial has consisted of three separate hearing days, which occurred weeks apart. No one from his family or the Washington Post was allowed in the courtroom. The journalist’s latest trial date, July 13, is thought to be his last.
“Iran has made a mockery of their own legal system,” Ali Rezaian said.
The recent Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program was also a major topic of discussion.
Ali Rezain said the agreement made the anniversary “all the more trying.”
“We had hoped the United States and other governments could impress upon Iran that illegally holding a journalist within their court system would jeopardize the odds of success and have consequences for their country. Today, that has not been the case,” he said.
The deal would lift U.S. economic sanctions on Iran.
Ali Rezaian said tying his brother’s case to the nuclear negotiations could have posed problems and he wanted his brother’s case to stand on its own. However, he was disappointed his brother was not released when talks concluded.
“I wake up every day disappointed that Jason is still in prison and that we are still working on this,” Ali Rezaian said. “Given that the bulk of the negotiations are done, this will give Iran another opportunity to do the right thing. It will give the United States government an opportunity to let them know that Jason and the others need to come home.”
Jason Rezaian is the longest held Western journalist in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Baron said he is innocent and there is no evidence against him.
“It is clear, as it always has been, that Jason did nothing wrong. All he did was work diligently as a journalist. Every aspect of this case — his incarceration, his trial, the conditions of his imprisonment — has been a disgraceful violation of human rights,” Baron said. “And it violates common decency.”
Reach reporter Sarah Fulton at [email protected] or 202-408-1492. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Download photos: Rezaian.zip