Reporter Jason Rezaian of the Washington Post was placed on trial Tuesday in a Tehran courtroom closed to outsiders after being imprisoned for more than 10 months. However, it remained unknown when he will appear in court again.
According to Carol Morello of the Washington Post, Judge Abolghassem Salavati, who is known for draconian sentences, read out the four-count indictment in a two-hour session in Tehran's Revolutionary Court. The semiofficial Mehr News Agency reported that Rezaian has denied the allegations, claiming that he was only a news reporter.
"I am a journalist, and all of my activities have been conducted as a journalist, and all were legal," Rezaian said, according to Mehr.
According to the Washington Post, 39-year-old Rezaian, who holds both U.S. and Iranian citizenship, is the paper's Tehran bureau chief. He was originally arrested on July 22 along with his wife, reporter Yeganeh Salehi of Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper, and two photojournalists; everyone except Rezaian has been released on bail.
"Rezaian has been accused of espionage and propaganda against Iran," Morello wrote. "He faces four charges that carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The Post has vigorously protested his detention."
Morella added that Iran's government claimed that Washington had no legal standing to press for Rezaian's release, given that it does not recognize dual nationality. In addition, Rezaian's family was prevented from seeing him while the proceedings took place.
"We have absolutely no idea what happened in court, other than the fact the indictment against Jason was read," Ali Rezaian, his brother, said.
Morella reported that it was illegal under Iranian law to reveal details about a closed-door hearing. However, Ali indicated that his brother's trial would continue "at a later session."
"It certainly adds to concerns, and it fits, unfortunately, into a pattern of a complete lack of transparency and lack of due process that we've seen since Jason was detained," deputy State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said. "While we call for it to be open, we also maintain he never should have been held and tried in the first place."
The Washington Post, along with the State Department and other journalism organizations, has condemned the closed-door nature of the trial. Rathke stated that the State Department will continue calling for "all of the absurd charges to be dropped and for Jason Rezaian to be released immediately."
Morella reported that Rezaian's detention has also brought into focus three other Americans and their plight in Iran: missing former FBI agent Robert Levinson, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati and Pastor Saeed Abedini. The State Department has repeatedly brought up all of these cases while nuclear negotiations with Iran continued.
"The four Americans have been mentioned on the sidelines of the talks, however, and it does not appear that their release would be a condition for a nuclear deal with Iran," Morella wrote.