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US Urges Greater Transparency in Journalist’s Trial in Iran

  • Pamela Dockins

FILE - Iranian-American Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian.

FILE - Iranian-American Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian.

The United States is pressing Iran for more information about Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter who went on trial Tuesday on charges including espionage.

The State Department, human rights advocates and Rezaian’s family have expressed concerns about Iran’s lack of transparency in the case.

Rezaian’s brother, Ali, said the family has had little contact with him since the arrest.

Ali Rezaian told VOA's Persian service that his brother’s lawyer was present for Tuesday’s court proceeding in Tehran, but that his mother and sister-in-law were shut out of the courtroom.

"They sat outside hoping to see Jason, but they couldn’t go inside. They could not see him. They stayed there for five or six hours,” said Rezaian.

WATCH: Ali Rezaian discusses brother's trial in Iran

Iranian authorities arrested and detained Jason Rezaian in July. He holds dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship, but Iran does not recognize other nationalities for its citizens.

His wife, also a journalist, also was arrested, along with a third person.

The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency said Rezaian and two other unnamed suspects were brought to the “closed trial.”

Iran’s Mehr news agency said Rezaian faces charges of espionage, propaganda against the country and collaborating with hostile powers. It said he rejected some of the charges while in court Tuesday and maintained that his activities as a journalist were legal.

Mehr also said the court read a letter that Rezaian wrote to Barack Obama’s transition team in 2008, before Obama became president. In the letter, Rezaian offers to help with efforts to improve relations between the two countries.

Ali Rezaian said his brother is eager to tell his side of the story.

“Jason has always said he was committed to having a vigorous defense, to tell people that he is innocent and make sure that people know that the charges are baseless,” said Rezaian.

The Iranian government is not upholding its pledge for a just trial with due process, said Jason Stern of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“It is very telling that they are not willing to let the press freely cover the trial,” said Stern. “They are not letting independent observers enter the trial. They have not let The Washington Post observe it. And that really goes to say that — what are they hiding, exactly?”

Stern said that since 2009, Iran has ranked among the top countries for detaining journalists. He said approximately 30 journalists are currently detained in Iran.

“You have this mass imprisonment of journalists and other dissidents at the same time [Iran is] trying to re-engage with the world,” he said.

WATCH: VOA reporter Pat Dockins asks State Department spokesman a question about Rezaian's trial

At the State Department, spokesman Jeff Rathke said the U.S. government is also calling for Rezaian’s trial to be open but maintains he never should have been put on trial in the first place.

“We continue to call for the absurd charges to be dropped, and for Jason Rezaian to be released immediately,” he said.

Rathke said the U.S. has raised Rezaian’s case with Iran as it engages with the country on other issues, such as nuclear talks.

There was no word from Iran on Rezaian’s next court appearance. Ali Rezaian said the family’s expectations were that the trial would last two to three days.

VOA’s Persian service contributed to this report.

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