WASHINGTON - A Washington Post correspondent held in Iran for more than a year will have a final hearing in his case on Monday, the newspaper's executive editor said, potentially bringing a close to a process that has drawn condemnation from press freedom groups and U.S. officials.
Martin Baron said in a statement Saturday that the lawyer for Jason Rezaian, the Post's correspondent in Tehran since 2012, was told that the closed-door session in Iran's Revolutionary Court would be the last before a verdict.
Rezaian was arrested in July 2014 along with his journalist wife Yeganeh Salehi and held for months without formal charges. He was later charged with espionage and working with "hostile governments."
Baron called the trial a "sham" and said the charges "could not be more baseless and absurd."
"Iran has behaved unconscionably throughout this travesty of a case," he said. "It has imprisoned an innocent journalist for more than a year and subjected him to physical mistreatment and psychological abuse."
Baron urged the court to acquit and release Rezaian, saying Iran had a chance to bring the case to a "humane resolution."
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters at a press briefing Thursday that the United States continues to call for the release of Rezaian and all other detained Americans in Iran.
Secretary of State John Kerry has said Rezaian poses no threat to Iran and that the U.S. is disappointed in the case.
When asked last month whether Rezaian's release might be part of the international nuclear agreement with Iran, Kerry said, "We are working very hard on him."
Two other Americans, Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, have been held in Iran for several years.
In addition to The Washington Post and U.S. officials, the calls for Rezaian's release have come from press freedom groups and individuals across the world. Nearly 500,000 people have signed an online petition urging Rezaian's unconditional release.
The board of the Committee to Protect Journalists sent a letter to the head of the Iranian judiciary on July 20 calling for an immediate end to the case with Rezaian going home.
"Never before has an international journalist been held for so long in the Islamic Republic of Iran," the letter said. "Our colleague has been denied any real opportunity to defend himself against the charges."