Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who has been imprisoned in Tehran for more than 14 months, was convicted in an espionage trial several weeks ago according to Iran’s state media. The conviction, on charges that his family and human rights activists claim are bogus, helps maintain Iran’s status as one of the world’s top jailers of journalists.
To put court’s decision in perspective, Rezaian, a 39-year-old Iranian-American from California, has already been imprisoned for 447 days, longer than those held in the takeover of the American Embassy in 1979.
Only one country has jailed more journalists than Iran: China.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), China had 44 journalists jailed at the end of 2014, while Iran had 30. China has stepped up its jailing journalists while Iran has abated.
In Iran, the majority of reporters that are jailed have been accused of either anti-statism or reporting false news. Meanwhile, in China many who write critically about the ruling Chinese Communist Party are detained.
The CPJ noted that several journalists have been jailed for writing for the Chinese language edition of Epoch Times, which is banned in the country. Several journalists from the Tibetan and Uighur minorities have been jailed
The Washington Post issued a statement on Rezaian’s conviction on Monday, calling it an “outrageous injustice.”
“Iran has behaved unconscionably throughout this case, but never more so than with this indefensible decision by a Revolutionary Court to convict an innocent journalist of serious crimes after a proceeding that unfolded in secret, with no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing. For now, no sentence has been announced,” the Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, wrote in the statement.
The Post is “working with Jason’s family and Iranian counsel to pursue an immediate appeal, and we expect Jason’s lawyer, Leila Ahsan, also to petition for Jason to be released on bail pending a final resolution of the case.”
Baron wrote that Rezaian was held in isolation for months, without access to a lawyer. He also was “subjected to physical mistreatment and psychological abuse,” the statement reads.
Rezaian’s conviction was announced via Iranian state-run media. It’s unclear how many years in prison he might receive.
According to a Washington Post report, Rezaian’s family was unable to get information on the verdict. His mother along with Rezaian’s wife and his defense lawyer went to the courthouse on Monday seeking more information, but they were turned away.
“As a consequence, at this point we still have no clarity regarding Jason’s fate,” Ali Rezaian said in a statement. “Should the verdict be anything other than a full exoneration, we will appeal and seek the justice that Jason deserves.”