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Hardline Iranian Judge Blocks Lawyer Chosen to Represent WaPo Journalist

Jason Rezaian

An Iranian lawyer trying to represent a detained Washington Post journalist is not being allowed to see his prospective client, he says.

Masoud Shafii said he has been trying to see Jason Rezaian, but he has been stymied by the judge assigned to preside over the case. Rezaian, a dual citizen of Iran and the U.S., has been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for seven months.

“I went two to three times in the past week to see Judge [Abloqasem] Salavati, but unfortunately he did not allow me to see him,” Shafii told VOA's Persian Service via phone from Tehran.

Shafii, who defended three U.S. hikers in a high-profile espionage case in 2011, said he needs access to Rezaian so papers can be signed to make the attorney-client relationship official. Until then, he can’t represent him or have access to the case file or any evidence.

No official charges against Rezaian have been made public.

Shafii said that when he escalated his concerns, he was told by the Revolutionary Court that Rezaian already had legal representation.

“It is the accused who chooses who to represent him and not the court,” he added.

Asked if he was familiar with specifics of the case, Shafii said that he had heard the media reports that his would-be client is accused of “espionage.”

Last week, Hamid Rasaei, a hardline Iranian deputy in the conservative-dominated parliament, claimed that there is an “espionage case” against Rezaian and his wife and that someone in the office of President Hassan Rouhani has been working with them.

Rasaei has called for the Islamic Republic’s state television to broadcast what he termed as Rezaian’s “confessions.”

“His confessions are about his espionage activities, which were aimed at hurting the Iranian nation…he has talked about his activities and actions,” Rasaei said, according to the Iranian parliament news website,

Resaei added without elaborating that Rezaian had access to “sensitive areas in the country.”

The conservative MP is a staunch critic of the country’s centrist president.

Rezaian, along with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and two other journalists were detained on July 22. Rezaian is the only one left incarcerated.

Rezaian’s relatives and the Washington Post maintain he was acting only as a reporter, writing stories about ordinary Iranians.

The U.S. State Department has repeatedly asked the Iranian government to release Rezaian, saying he is being held “unjustly.”

Earlier this month at the Munich Security Conference, Iran’s Foreign Minister Moohammad Javad Zarif said “once the court process is completed, we will have a clear-cut case or we will have his acquittal.”