Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian went on trial behind closed doors in Iran yesterday on charges of spying in a case that has clouded a rapprochement with the US.
Rezaian’s wife, journalist Yeganeh Salehi, appeared in court with her husband and a female news photographer, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.
The trial is being held in Branch 15 of Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court, which usually presides over political cases or those related to national security.
The first session ended after about three hours, according to MizanOnline, a news agency linked to the judiciary.
It gave no further details and said the date of the next session would be announced later.
Rezaian, an Iranian-American, has been held since July last year in a politically sensitive case that has unfolded while Iran and world powers conduct nuclear talks.
His wife, who worked for the National, an English-language newspaper based in Abu Dhabi, was arrested along with him, but released on bail after spending two-and-a-half months in custody.
Rezaian, 39, is accused of “espionage, collaboration with hostile governments, gathering classified information and disseminating propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” Rezaian lawyer Leila Ahsan said.
The US and the Washington Post have branded the charges “absurd” and demanded his release.
Tehran does not recognize dual nationality and says the case is a purely Iranian matter.
State media gave no details of yesterday’s hearing and no indication of how long the trial might last.
However, it overlaps with the final stretch of negotiations between Iran and the major powers aimed at reaching a comprehensive agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program by a June 30 deadline.
Rezaian’s case has been played out in the Iranian media, where he has been accused of spying and passing information about Iran to US government officials.
Among the offenses he is alleged to have committed is writing a letter to US President Barack Obama.
Post executive director Martin Baron said the newspaper tried to obtain a visa for a senior editor to travel to Iran, but the request was never acknowledged by Iranian authorities.
“There is no justice in this system, not an ounce of it, and yet the fate of a good, innocent man hangs in the balance,” he said. “Iran is making a statement about its values in its disgraceful treatment of our colleague, and it can only horrify the world community.”
Rezaian has been held in the capital’s notorious Evin Prison and his family have frequently spoken of their fears for his health.
His mother, Mary, has been in Iran for the past two weeks awaiting the trial.
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