The National’s reporter to appear in Iran court on May 26
NEW YORK // Yeganeh Salehi, a correspondent for The National, and her husband Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post journalist, will appear in an Iranian court on May 26, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Rezaian, 39, was charged last month with espionage, collaboration with hostile governments, gathering classified information and disseminating propaganda against Iran.
The Iranian-American has been in custody for 10 months in Tehran.
The charges against Salehi and a third suspect — both of whom are currently on bail — have never been specified publicly. The third person, who has not been named, is a freelance photographer who worked for foreign media.
“It seems that all three will appear together,” said Leila Ahsan, the lawyer representing Rezaian and Salehi.
“If there is sufficient time the trial will start but if not the proceedings will be dealt with in another court session.”
Rezaian was not allowed to meet Ms Ahsan to prepare for the trial until earlier this month when they met in the presence of judiciary officials for about an hour, his brother, Ali, told the Voice of American Persian service. He said it was unlikely Rezaian will be allowed to meet her again before next week’s trial.
The allegations are being handled by one of Iran’s revolutionary courts, which have jurisdiction over crimes against national security and hold their proceedings behind closed doors.
The judge hearing the case, Abolghassem Salavati, is known for handing down long sentences for journalists, protesters and reformist politicians, and was sanctioned by the European Union in 2011 for human rights violation.
The official IRNA news agency carried a report quoting a judiciary official that suggested Rezaian, Salehi and the third suspect would all face charges.
“May 26 is the day when Jason Rezaian’s court session together with two other accused will be held at branch 15 of the prosecutor’s office and of the Tehran Revolutionary Court,” it said.
Rezaian and his wife were detained in Tehran on July 22 last year.
But Salehi, an Iranian national, was released on bail in October. Rezaian, who holds dual US-Iran citizenship, is being held in the capital’s Evin prison and his family have frequently spoken of their fears for his health, citing his need for medication to combat high blood pressure.
The Post and Rezaian’s family say that the charges against the journalists were ludicrous, and allege that Rezaian has been held for long periods of time in solitary confinement and has faced harsh interrogations.
“The serious criminal charges that Jason now faces in Iran’s Revolutionary Court are not supported by a single fact,” the Post’s executive editor Martin Baron said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The proceedings against him have been anything but fair and open — if they had been, Jason would never have been subjected to outrageous prison conditions, obstacles to selecting a lawyer, limited time to prepare a defence, and an inadequate window on the case that Iran plans to bring against him.”
Salehi was not allowed to consult an attorney and has not been provided with details about the charges against her. Her press credentials have also been revoked.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said last month while he was in New York that an “overzealous low-level operative” may have tried to “take advantage” of Rezaian, though he said he hoped the journalist would be cleared of all charges.
The US state department said in response: “Any assertion that Jason was other than a hard-working journalist trying to tell the story of Iran and the Iranian people to the world is absurd.”
There was some hope that the US would use the ongoing talks with Iran over Tehran’s nuclear programme to push for the journalist’s release, and US secretary of state John Kerry has raised the issue with Mr Zarif on the sideline of talks. However, US officials say they will not link the nuclear talks to any other issues.
Ms Ahsan said on Tuesday, “I was not informed but after seeing the news on the media, I called the court and found that the date had been set.”
Rezaian, born in California to an Iranian father and American mother, is one of four US citizens that Mr Obama has urged Iran to repatriate.
* Reporting from Agence France-Presse