Iran FM wants 'humanitarian' solution for US reporter

AP News
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Posted: Oct 17, 2015 10:44 AM
Iran FM wants 'humanitarian' solution for US reporter

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's foreign minister said Saturday there are serious charges against jailed Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian but that he is seeking to resolve the case from a "humanitarian perspective."

Mohammad Javad Zarif provided no further details during a security conference Saturday to discuss Syria as well as Iran's future role in the region following a landmark nuclear agreement reached with world powers in July.

Rezaian, who has been jailed for over a year on charges of espionage, was recently convicted by a Revolutionary Court. Iranian officials have not provided details on the verdict or sentence.

"The issue over this defendant is a judicial process but we are making efforts to resolve it from a humanitarian perspective," Zarif said.

Rezaian was detained with his wife, who is a journalist for The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, and two photojournalists on July 22, 2014. All were later released except Rezaian.

Rezaian, the Post's Tehran bureau chief since 2012, grew up in Marin County, California, spent most of his life in the United States, and holds both American and Iranian citizenship. Iran does not recognize dual nationality for its citizens.

Iran's state media, citing the indictment, have said Rezaian collected information on Iranian and foreign individuals and companies circumventing sanctions and passed them on to the U.S. government. Iranian state TV has repeatedly called Rezaian an "American spy."

Earlier this month, the intelligence department of the powerful elite Revolutionary Guard claimed in a report to parliament that Rezaian is an agent seeking to "overthrow" Iran's Islamic ruling system.

Rezaian's lawyer, Leila Ahsan, told The Associated Press on Saturday that political issues are complicating the legal case.

"It's not a normal case," she said. "Under the law, the verdict should have been issued one week after the end of the trial. It didn't happen."

Ahsan said she is yet to receive the verdict.

"I will definitely appeal if the verdict has found my client guilty," she said. "Rezaian is innocent and must be freed."

Rezaian last appeared in court on Aug. 10, after the conclusion of the nuclear deal. He faced multiple charges including espionage in a closed-door trial that has been widely criticized by the U.S. government and press freedom organizations.

About two weeks later, a senior Iranian diplomat alluded to the possibility of swapping Rezaian for Iranian prisoners held in the U.S.

The official, Hassan Qashqavi, Iran's deputy foreign minister in charge of legal and consular affairs, was quoted by state-linked media as saying the U.S. holds 19 Iranians on "sanctions-related charges" and another 60 for "ordinary crimes."

President Hassan Rouhani also raised that possibility last month but Iran's judiciary rejected the idea.