Washington Post Foreign Editor Douglas Jehl reacts to news that Iran has sentenced Iranian-American and Post reporter Jason Rezaian to prison for espionage. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: An Iranian court has sentenced Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian to a prison term, the state news agency IRNA said on Sunday (November 22) quoting a judiciary spokesman, a case that is a sensitive issue in contentious U.S.-Iranian relations. The length of the prison term was not specified. An Iranian Judiciary spokesman told IRNA that Rezaian, who was arrested in July 2014, would serve a sentence but could not give further details. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters he was aware of the IRNA report but could not independently confirm it. It was not clear why Iran has not given details of the ruling against the 39-year-old Rezaian, who Iranian prosecutors accused of espionage. The foreign editor of the Washington Post, Douglas Jehl, criticized Iran's lack of transparency in the ongoing judicial process in an interview with Reuters Television. Jehl also said that it was possible that the reported sentencing might move the case closer to a final resolution in the judiciary, so it can then go to Iranian leaders, adding that while the U.S. government had pressed for Rezaian's release, more could be done. The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement that Rezaian, who is Washington Post's Tehran bureau chief and a dual U.S. and Iranian citizen, is being held on "bogus espionage charges," and also called for his release. On Oct. 11, an Iranian spokesman said Rezaian had been convicted, without elaborating. He said at that time that Rezaian had 20 days to appeal the verdict. Influential Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani hinted in September at the possibility that Rezaian could be freed in exchange for Iranian prisoners in the United States, but officials then played down the possibility of such a swap. In October Rezaian's brother, Ali Rezaian said he is now being held in a cell with one other prisoner who speaks neither English nor Farsi in an area for political prisoners in Evin prison. Jehl said that Rezaian is likely being held as a pawn in a larger strategic battle between rival political forces inside of Iran, and that his long detention has taken a toll on him. Among the charges, Rezaian was accused of "collaborating with hostile governments" and disseminating "propaganda against the establishment", according to a statement from Rezaian's attorney, the Washington Post reported in April. In the indictment, Iranian authorities said Rezaian had written to U.S. President Barack Obama and called it an example of contacting a "hostile government", the Washington Post has said. His brother said on Oct. 13 that Rezaian had heard of his conviction on Iranian state TV and was depressed and angry about being deprived of information about his case. Two other U.S. citizens - Christian pastor Saeed Adedini and Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant - also are jailed in Iran. Robert Levinson, a private American investigator, disappeared there in 2007.