Lawyer: Post reporter's next hearing in Iran likely the last

AP News
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Posted: Jul 20, 2015 12:52 PM
Lawyer: Post reporter's next hearing in Iran likely the last

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The lawyer of a Washington Post journalist detained in Iran said Monday that the next hearing in his espionage trial likely will be the last, though she's still uncertain when that will be.

Bureau chief Jason Rezaian, 39, has been held almost a year and has faced three other closed-door hearings in its trial in a Revolutionary Court in Tehran, even as Iran recently struck a deal in Vienna with world powers over its contested nuclear program. He faces charges that include espionage and distributing propaganda against the Islamic Republic. U.S. officials, the Post and rights groups have criticized his trial and pressed for his release.

Rezaian's defense lawyer, Leila Ahsan, told The Associated Press by telephone that the court has informed her the next session "almost certainly" will be the last one before a verdict is reached.

"Still, it's not clear how long it will take for the court to issue a verdict on the case after the last session," Ahsan said. She declined to comment further.

Rezaian is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who was born and spent most of his life in the United States. Iran does not recognize other nationalities for its citizens.

His wife, Yeganeh Salehi, a journalist for The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi, and two photographers were detained along with Rezaian on July 22, 2014, in Tehran. All except Rezaian were later released.

Ahsan previously said Salehi and one of the two unidentified photojournalists also would stand trial. Salehi is barred from traveling abroad.

The Post has said Rezaian faces 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted. His detention, as well as those of other Americans, came up during negotiations over Iran's contested nuclear program. However, while the talks successfully ended last week with a proposed permanent deal to end sanctions and cap Iran's atomic program, Rezaian remains held.

Martin Baron, the executive editor of the Post, said in a statement Monday that it was "long past time for the Iranian authorities to bring this process to an end."

"The charges that Jason faces, including espionage, are grave; they also could not be more ludicrous," Baron said. "Any fair outcome would clear Jason of these manufactured charges so that he can be released and reunited with his family."

Meanwhile, the board of directors of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists sent a letter to the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadeq Larijani, also calling for Rezaian's immediate release.

"Never before has an international journalist been held for so long in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Our colleague has been denied any real opportunity to defend himself against the charges," the committee's letter read. "We urge you to ensure that this case is resolved immediately and that Jason returns home to his family."

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Associated Press writer Sarah Brumfield in Washington contributed to this report.