Iran’s sham trial of Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post’s Iran correspondent, began on Tuesday. The charges — labeled “absurd” in an unusually blunt State Department assessment — include “espionage for the hostile government of the United States” and propaganda against the Islamic Republic. In fact, according to the State Department, the Washington Post and organizations like the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Rezaian was just doing his job as a journalist.
The theocracy that so cruelly rules Iran should immediately drop the charges against Rezaian and his wife, journalist Yaganeh Salehi, as well the freelance photographer swept up in the dragnet, and the 30 other journalists CPJ estimates are jailed in the press-oppressive state.
Rezaian, according to the Post, was arrested without charges, placed in isolation in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison and denied necessary medical care. Assigned an unforgiving judge and an attorney he was only allowed to meet with for 90 minutes, his trial was closed to not only the press but also to his wife, his mother and a senior editor from the Washington Post.
“So far the only thing that is more thin than the evidence that there will be due process in the trial is the evidence that he is actually a spy,” Jason Stern, research associate for North Africa and the Middle East at the Committee to Protect Journalists told an editorial writer.
The Kafkaesque jurisprudence plays out against the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. Hard-liners in Tehran may be using the case as leverage against the more moderate (for Iran, anyway) envoys engaging with world powers. This internal struggle compounds the danger of the case, because even if moderates can be convinced that convicting Rezaian will make Iran even more of an international pariah, there’s no guarantee they can free him. Yet the U.S. and U.N. must pressure Tehran on this and all other human rights cases.
“Iran is making a statement about its values in its disgraceful treatment of our colleague, and it can only horrify the world community,” Martin Baron, the Post’s executive editor, said in a statement. The only way to end that horror is for Tehran to release Rezaian and all of the other journalists unjustly held by the Iranian regime.