Iran convicts Washington Post reporter of espionage

In what Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron is calling "an outrageous injustice," WaPo reporter Jason Rezaian was convicted of espionage.  The verdict was handed down two months ago, but because of the byzantine workings of the Iranian judicial system, it is only just now coming to light.

Rezaian was arrested along with his wife, an Iranian journalist, in July of 2014.  He has been held at the notorious Evin prison since that time.  For many months there were no charges filed against him, only learning of the espionage accusations in the spring of 2015.

President Hassan Rouhani has repeatedly suggested a prisoner exchange in recent weeks. He has said Iran might push to expedite freedom Rezaian and two other Iranian-Americans if the United States released Iranian citizens convicted of sanctions violations. Saeed Abedini of Boise, Idaho, is a pastor imprisoned for organizing home churches. Amir Hekmati of Flint, Mi. is a former Marine who has spent four years in prison since his arrest during a visit to see his grandmother.

Rezaian's case attracted international attention as an example of Iranian government repression, despite its desire to emerge from decades of isolation and re-engage with the world.

The judge at the May 26 proceeding read the indictment against Rezaian, and the session was adjourned after about two hours. No family members or independent observers were allowed to attend.

Three subsequent sessions were held, one of them a day before the conclusion of a July 14 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, including the United States. The court held its final hearing in the case on Aug. 10, Rezaian’s attorney said. She did not provide details.

On the first anniversary of his detention, The Post formally petitioned the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for help in securing Rezaian’s release. The Post accused the Iranian government of flagrant human rights violations during the “arbitrary and unlawful” detention of the journalist.

The head of the working group and two other U.N. human rights expertsexpressed grave concern on Aug. 14 about his continued incarceration, saying that his legal rights and due process had been ignored and calling for his immediate release.

Top Iranian officials in September floated the idea of a prisoner exchangeinvolving Rezaian and at least two other Americans held in Iran, but the Post reporter remained incarcerated while passing a grim milestone. By Oct. 10, he had been detained longer than the 52 Americans held during the Iranian hostage crisis three decades ago.

Mr. Rezaian's case is taking a familiar course.  The Iranian government – or, more likely, one faction or another – grabs an American off the street and throws him in prison.  They take their time coming up with charges and manufacturing evidence.  And after conviction, they graciously allow the U.S. citizen to return home – usually after paying an exorbitant ransom, or "bail." 

The idea that we were negotiating all those months with Iran and didn't try to free our hostages is ludicrous.  In this, the president put his personal, historical legacy ahead of the lives of  innocent Americans.  It doesn't get much more selfish than that, since the jailed Americans – including a pastor and former Marine –  are simply part of Iran's efforts to humiliate us. 

President Obama didn't want to upset our new friends in Tehran by demanding the release of American prisoners.  Because of that, they are suffering untold indignities and torture while their health declines.  Rezaian was so badly mistreated, he needed medical assistance last summer to treat a chronic eye infection and other maladies. 

No protest of Iran's beastly treatment of our citizens except pro forma statements by the State Department.  Instead, we have a fatally flawed nuclear deal and three American citizens being used as pawns by Iran.

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