'Washington Post' Reporter Jason Rezaian Is On Trial in Tehran, But Why?

After being detained for nearly 10 months, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian's trial began in Tehran on Tuesday. But for bringing such murky charges against the correspondent, the Iranian government has an even more dubious response — Rezaian's trial will take place out of the public eye.

Rezaian was imprisoned in July for espionage, collecting confidential information, collaborating with hostile governments, and spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic, and writing a letter the President Obama. He has been in Tehran's notorious Evin prison since his arrest.

The Tehran correspondent will only have his lawyer beside him. Family — including his wife Yeganeh Salehi, a journalist who was arrested along with Rezaian and later released — are barred from attending the trial. With few details about the journalist's specific charges, the secrecy surrounding the proceedings is raising a few eyebrows.

Martin Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, said in a statement that the trial will "be closed to the scrutiny it fully deserves."

It’s worth recalling what kind of system we’re dealing with. Jason was arrested without charges. He was imprisoned in Iran’s worst prison. He was placed in isolation for many months and denied medical care he needed. His case was assigned to a judge internationally notorious for human rights violations. He could not select the lawyer of his choosing. He was given only an hour and a half to meet with a lawyer approved by the court. No evidence has ever been produced by prosecutors or the court to support these absurd charges. The trial date was only disclosed to Jason’s lawyer last week. And now, unsurprisingly but unforgivably, it turns out the trial will be closed.

Rezaian began trial in a Tehran Revolutionary Court on Tuesday. So, let's take a look at these charges. Rezaian's indictment, which was provided to The Washington Post nine months after he was detained, said that he allegedly gathered information "about internal and foreign policy" and provided it to "individuals with hostile intent."

...That sounds an awful lot like being a journalist, huh?

President Obama has previously asked the Iranian government to release Rezaian. He has said the journalist was simply "writing about the hopes and fears of the Iranian people."

The consensus of both the media and U.S. officials is that Rezaian has been unjustly charged. Gathering information and sharing it is what a journalist does. The Washington Post posits that this is a message from the Iranian government that though they will cooperate with the U.S. on nuclear deals, it wants to maintain the countries' contentious relationship.

Is this a message from the Iranian government? That's not entirely clear. But what is clear is that Rezaian is being held on paper thin charges. And it doesn't look like we'll get any clarity any time soon.

Images: CBS News