Journalist Imprisoned Over Six Months without Access to Lawyer or Publicly Released Charges
In another vague statement about the status of the imprisoned Washington Post reporter, Jason Rezaian, the Iranian Judiciary has announced that Rezaian will be put on trial “soon,” while failing to provide any information about his charges. On January 28, 2015, Gholamhossein Esmaeeli, Head of the Tehran Judiciary, said that the result of Rezaian’s case “will be announced after the final verdict [has been issued], and the trial has ended.” Rezaian has been in “temporary detention” and in solitary confinement, without publicly released charges or access to a lawyer, since July 22, 2014.
According to Saleh Nikbakht who was trying to represent Rezaian until now, Judge Abolghassem Salavati is assigned to preside over Rezaian’s case at Branch 15 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court. Nikbakht told the Campaign that he has informed Rezaian’s family now that the case is referred to Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court, “for certain reasons” he [Nikbakht] can not take up the case and represent Rezaian.
Salavati earned the moniker “the hanging judge,” due to the large number of execution sentences he issued following the peaceful protests after the disputed 2009 presidential election in Iran. He is also known as a judge who is highly influenced by interrogators and intelligence agents whose interrogations, which often involve forced confessions, typically lead to indictments and prosecutions in politically motivated case.
In an editorial piece in the Washington Post yesterday, Martin Baron, the newspaper’s Executive Editor, was quoted as expressing outrage at Esmaeeli’s statement. “We have yet to hear any accounting of any charges against Jason, who, after six months in custody, has still not been provided access to a lawyer,” adding, “It is appalling and outrageous that Jason remains behind bars. A fair and just approach by Iran’s Judiciary could only result in his immediate release.”
During a press conference on January 14, Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told reporters that Rezaian had been indicted and that his case had been forwarded to a Tehran Revolutionary Court. The Prosecutor’s announcement, after 170 days of “temporary detention” of the Washington Post journalist, did not include a statement about the charges Rezaian is facing.
On October 29, 2014, Mohammad Javad Larijani, Head of the Iranian Judiciary’s Human Rights Council, had this to say to CNN about Rezaian’s arrest and prolonged detention: “Unfortunately, they [Rezaian and his wife] have been involved in activities which our security people consider [to be] activities definitely beyond journalism,” adding, “Their detention is according to the law with the order of the judges.” Three months later, it is still not clear what those charges are.
Jason Rezaian, 38, holds dual Iranian and US citizenship, and has been the Washington Post correspondent in Tehran since 2012. Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who worked for the UAE newspaper The National as their Tehran correspondent, were detained in Tehran on July 22, 2014. Yeganeh Salehi was released in October 2014, but Jason Rezaian has remained in prison since that time.
* This article was updated on January 31, 2015.