'Washington Post' Journalist Jason Rezaian Sentenced To Prison In Iran, But No One Knows How Long He'll Be There
A Washington Post journalist has been in prison in Iran for 488 days so far, and it's unclear if he will be getting out anytime soon, according to CNN. Jason Rezaian was sentenced by an Iranian court on Sunday, but the sentence just says he will go to prison for spying — it does not specify why he was found guilty or how long his sentence will be. The Post has maintained that Rezaian, who was serving as the paper's Tehran bureau chief, was not a U.S. government spy and that his detainment and trial have been unlawful and abusive.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said "serving a jail term" is part of Rezaian's sentence but that he could give no further details, according to Reuters. In October, Ejei was similarly vague when he said Rezaian had been convicted, but he didn't elaborate on what evidence the government had to prove that he was guilty of espionage. The Post claimed that the vagueness of Ejei's comments makes it clear that Rezaian's offenses are either small or nonexistent. Rather, the Post alleges that Rezaian is being used as a bargaining chip by the Iranian government, whose relationship with the U.S. has been tricky until very recently when the countries struck a nuclear deal, according to Reuters.
Douglas Jehl, foreign editor of the Post, released a statement Sunday calling Rezaian's trial and detainment a "sham":
We're aware of the reports in the Iranian media, but have no further information at this time. Every day that Jason is in prison is an injustice. He has done nothing wrong. Even after keeping Jason in prison 487 days so far, Iran has produced no evidence of wrongdoing. His trial and sentence are a sham, and he should be released immediately.
Rezaian was charged with "collaborating with hostile governments" and "disseminating 'propaganda against the establishment,'" among other charges, according to Reuters. The only evidence that Iran has used to support these allegations was the fact that Rezaian wrote to President Barack Obama, which Iran said was an example of his contacting a "hostile government."
Throughout Rezaian's trial and sentencing, his lawyer has had to fight for information. For example, when his verdict was handed down in October, Rezaian's lawyer read the news in the press. The same thing happened Sunday with his sentence. His lawyer, Leila Ahsan, told the Associated Press that she still hadn't received any details about the verdict or, now, the sentence, according to the Post.
In August, Iranian officials said they might consider exchanging American detainees in Iran for 19 Iranians the U.S. was holding. But it's remained unclear whether the U.S. or Iran are seriously considering that proposal.