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Iran Sentences US Journalist to Prison in Espionage Case

  • VOA News

FILE - Iranian-American Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian. Iran said Sunday it has sentenced detained Rezaian to an unspecified prison term following his conviction last month on espionage charges.

FILE - Iranian-American Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian. Iran said Sunday it has sentenced detained Rezaian to an unspecified prison term following his conviction last month on espionage charges.

Iran said Sunday it has sentenced detained Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian to an unspecified prison term following his conviction last month on espionage charges.

Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, a spokesman for Iran's judiciary, announced the sentence on Iranian state television's web site, but said it was "not finalized." He gave no indication on the length of the term.

Rezaian's lawyer, Leila Ahsan, said she had not been informed of the sentence.

US calls for immediate release

The U.S. State Department called on Iran "to vacate this sentence and immediately free Jason so that he can be returned to his family." It also said Tehran should free two other Americans it is holding, Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, and work with American officials to a locate a fourth, Robert Levinson.

Washington Post foreign editor Douglas Jehl said the newspaper was aware of the Iranian announcement but had no further information. He said Rezaian has done nothing wrong, Iran has produced no evidence and should release him immediately.

"What this does is move things a small step forward toward final resolution in the judiciary, and moving the case to Iran's senior leaders who can really act here to resolve the case," Jehl said. "It's these senior leaders who have the power to pardon, the power to overturn a verdict, the power to make things right."

Rezaian, the newspaper's Tehran bureau chief, has been detained since July 2014 and was convicted in mid-October, with his family and the Post denouncing the charges and calling repeatedly for his release.

Iran's state media, citing the indictment against Rezaian, have claimed that Rezaian compiled information on Iranian and foreign individuals that circumvented U.S. and United Nations economic sanctions against Tehran and passed it on to Washington. Iranian state TV has repeatedly called Rezaian an "American spy."

The intelligence arm of the powerful Revolutionary Guards claimed in a report earlier this month that Rezaian, with dual U.S. and Iranian citizenship, is a U.S. agent trying to "overthrow" Iran's Islamic government.

Rezaian's imprisonment and trial occurred as the United States and five other world powers negotiated a nuclear pact with Tehran that keeps it from developing a nuclear weapon in exchange for lifting the sanctions. But his fate and that of other Americans held by Iran were not part of the nuclear agreement.

Rezaian's wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and two photojournalists, were detained along with Rezaian when he was arrested, but they were eventually released.

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