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Iran Charges US Reporter With Spying

  • VOA News

FILE - Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian

FILE - Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian

A U.S. reporter jailed in Iran is being charged with four crimes, including espionage.

A lawyer for Jason Rezaian told The Washington Post that Rezaian also faces charges of "conducting propaganda against the establishment" and "collaborating with hostile governments.''

Rezaian's attorney, Leilah Ahsan, said his client also is accused of gathering "information about internal and foreign policy" and disseminating it to those with "malicious intent."

Editor speaks out

The Washington Post’s executive editor Martin Baron said in a statement that the charges, which he described as "ludicrous," carry a maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years imprisonment.

"It is beyond absurd and despicable to assert, as Iran's judiciary is now claiming, that Jason's work first as a freelance reporter and then as The Post's Tehran correspondent amounted to espionage or otherwise posed any threat to Iranian national security," he added.

Baron said Monday was the first substantive meeting between Rezaian and his lawyer, and that it lasted for 90 minutes in the presence of an official translator.

The 39-year-old Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh "Yegi" Salehi, also a journalist, were arrested in July last year after Iranian security forces raided their home in Tehran. Salehi has since been released, but Rezaian, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, has remained in jail for nine months.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf reiterated Washington's calls for the reporter's release. "If the reports are true, these charges are, as we've said in the past, patently absurd."

White House: Free Rezaian

The White House added that the charges should be immediately dismissed and Rezaian should be freed immediately.

Speaking to VOA on Friday before the charges were announced, Courtney Radsch from the Committee to Protect Journalists said Rezaian is "one of the cases we're highlighting in our press uncuffed campaign, which is aimed at trying to free several journalists around the world."

She went on to say that in Iran "there is no tolerance for criticism so any journalists that push at red lines push at imprisonment, and also that there is some level of unknowability about what is going to happen with foreign journalists, so they have been put at risk."

Last week, Rezaian's brother Ali spoke to VOA's Persian service about the situation, and he said Rezaian had at that point only met his lawyer once in passing and had not been able to discuss the case. He also said his family was getting little information from the U.S. government.