WASHINGTON - Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter detained in Iran for more than seven months, was granted access to a lawyer but not one of his choosing, his family said.
Masoud Shafii, who has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, said he has been trying to see his client in prison, but has been repeatedly stymied by the judge assigned to the case.
Rezaian is required to sign legal representation papers that would allow Shafii to defend him.
The dual U.S.-Iranian citizen has been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.
“For nearly a month, our family’s chosen attorney, Masoud Shafii, has worked tirelessly under pressure from the judiciary to be assigned as Jason's attorney," Rezaian’s family said in a statement.
"It is clear that despite his best efforts, Mr. Shafii will not be permitted to represent Jason. Last week, Judge Salavati set a deadline of March 2nd for Jason to present an ‘acceptable’ attorney to his court.”
The family said Leila Ahsan, who represents Jason's wife Yeganeh (Salehi), will now be Jason’s lead attorney.
No official charges against Rezaian, 38, have been made public.
Judge Salavati is notorious in Iran for leading numerous controversial trials, including many that have resulted in execution.
He is one of six judges whom human rights organizations have highlighted as being the instruments of a crackdown on journalists and political activists under the influence of Iran's intelligence and security apparatus.
Shafii told VOA's Persian Service from Tehran that Salavati’s barring him from representing Rezaian is “not only contrary to the Iranian penal laws but also unconstitutional.”
“Mr Salavati has been doing [this] to me for the past four years. He has prevented me from taking cases like Amir Hekmati [the ex-US Marine detained in Iran since 2011] and other cases,” Shafii said.
"In Jason’s case, I protested to the head of Tehran’s Revolutionary courts, but was told they are unable to do anything, and implicitly asked not to pursue it,” he added.
Shafii, who defended three U.S. hikers in a high-profile 2011 espionage case said Rezaian’s family is still adamant that he represents the jailed reporter.
No date has been set for Rezaian’s trial.