by Jasmin Ramsey
On July 22, Jason Rezaian, an American-Iranian Washington Post reporter, was detained in Tehran by Iranian authorities along with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and two other people whose names have been kept private.
The reason for the arrests was never publicly announced, and today, more than four months later, everyone but Rezaian has been released.
Salehi, a correspondent for the Abu Dhabi-based The National newspaper, was released on bail in October, but any hope that Rezaian would soon join his wife was shattered Dec. 3 when Human Rights Watch reported that Rezaian has been officially charged (the Post has since corroborated the report).
The nature of the charges against Rezaian remain unclear, but his detention has been extended until mid-January while the investigation against him continues, according to the Post.
The State Department has repeatedly called for Rezaian’s release.
“Jason poses no threat to the Iranian government or to Iran’s national security,” said Secretary of State John Kerry Dec. 7 in a press statement. “We call on the Iranian government to drop any and all charges against Jason and release him immediately so that he can be reunited with his family.”
Iranian officials are meanwhile facing increasing scrutiny over Rezaian’s case by the press.
The secretary of Iran’s Human Rights Council, Mohammad Javad Larijani, said Dec. 5. he hoped the case would be presented to the court as soon as possible in an interview with France24 after being asked about Rezaian’s status.
“Let us hope this fiasco will end on good terms,” he said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who accompanied Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to New York for the 69th session of the UN General Assembly, told NPR on Sept. 17 that he “wasn’t in a position” to discuss the charges against Rezaian but that Rezaian was “facing interrogation” as an Iranian citizen because Iran does not recognize dual citizenship.
“Now, I hope that all detainees will be released,” added Zarif. “I believe that it is in the interest of everybody to work for a more positive atmosphere. And that’s what I’ve done in the past several months.”
“But I believe that people have to face justice, if they committed crimes. Of course if he didn’t commit any crimes as an Iranian citizen, then it is our obligation as the government of Iran to seek his release,” he said.
A native of California who was born to an Iranian father and American mother, Rezaian’s interest in Iran from an early age ultimately grew into a love affair with the country. He ended up moving there, and even though Iran has long been criticized for its record on press freedom, became the Post’s Bureau Chief in 2012. He has since covered various aspects of the Islamic Republic, from its nuclear program to the effects of the sanctions regime on average Iranians to the growing popularity of American-style burger joints.
Since he was arrested, Rezaian’s family has reserved their calls for his release to only a few outlets, including the Washington Post, and CNN, which featured Rezaian and Salehi in the Iran-focused episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown show. Rezaian and his wife were detained shortly after the show was filmed in an arrest that reportedly involved a raid on their home, and Bourdain has since joined Rezaian’s family in calling for his release. Pages on Facebook and Twitter as well as petition have also been put up for Rezaian.
The appeals for Rezaian’s release by his family, including this video-message by Rezaian’s mother, Mary, have been respectful of the Iranian authorities. This has been the case even though his family says the lawyer they hired to represent Rezaian has not been allowed to see his client (Salehi, who is not speaking to the press, has visited her husband since she was released) and Jason has at least one health condition that requires consistent care.
Now Rezaian’s family has issued a public statement, which I am publishing in full below. The tone of this statement is considerably stronger than his family’s previous appeals, a likely testament to their growing state of distress.
FAMILY OF WASHINGTON POST REPORTER JASON REZAIAN RESPONDS TO CHARGES AGAINST HIM BY IRANIAN GOVERNMENT
December 7, 2014
Our family is deeply saddened to confirm that, after being held in solitary
confinement without charge for 137 days, Jason Rezaian was charged with
unknown crimes by the government of Iran.
In its ongoing disregard of Iran’s own laws, the Iranian judiciary has
continued to deny Jason access to legal representation, denied his request
for bail, and prevented access to review of his case file.
This continued disrespect for Iran’s judicial system should be a concern not
only to the international community who are eagerly awaiting normalization
of relations with Iran, but also to all those Iranians who claim that Iran
is a country of laws which should be recognized as such by major world
We urge Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to show the international
community that Iran is indeed a country that respects its laws, and order
the immediate and unconditional release of Jason and Yeganeh and end what
Iran’s own Head of the Judiciary’s Human Rights Council Mohammad Javad
Larijani, recently described as a “fiasco”.
*This article was updated Dec. 9 with additional links and comments by US and Iranian officials.
Photo: Jason Rezaian Courtesy of Mo Davari
Mr Larijani called it a fiasco, so be it. One thing is certain, it’s going to take time to change the way Iran uses its own laws. Perhaps this is another gasp from the hardliners? Let’s just hope Mr Rezaian didn’t do anything foolish as a reporter.
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