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UN Petition Seeks To Win Tehran Reporter's Release

  • RFE/RL

The Washington Post filed an urgent petition July 22 with the United Nations for the release of the newspaper's jailed Tehran correspondent, Jason Rezaian, on the anniversary of his arrest in Iran.

The reporter faces 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted in Iran on charges of espionage and anti-government propaganda -- charges which he and his family vehemently deny.

"Every aspect of this case - his incarceration, his trial, the conditions of his imprisonment - has been a disgraceful violation of
human rights. And it violates common decency," Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron said in a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington.

The United Nations was "aware" of the petition filed by the paper, said UN spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci. She noted that any further action will come from the UN Human Rights Council's Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions in Geneva.

The office's investigations usually give the country involved 60 days to respond, although the group also has an "urgent action" procedure intended to speed up the process. It was not known if that would be applied in this case.

The Post's lawyers said Iran has been responsive to about a third of the cases filed with the working group in the past decade. Jay Kennedy, the newspaper's general counsel, said the tactic hadn't been tried sooner because "we never expected his detention to last this long."

Rezaian's supporters say there is no available evidence against him.

"Release Jason to his family," National Press Club President John Hughes said. "As a Post reporter Jason is part of the Washington journalism community. He is like family to us."

The Post's general counsel Jay Kennedy said that Rezaian has been denied due process, with Iranian authorities failing to inform the prisoner of the charges against him, waiting 10 months to bring him to trial, and closing the trial to the public.

Rezaian has faced three closed-door hearings. It's unclear when a fourth — and likely final — hearing will be held, or when a verdict will be reached. The psychological strain of his prolonged imprisonment has caused Rezaian to lose 50 pounds.

Rezaian's brother, Ali, said that the Iranian nuclear talks, which had been ongoing throughout Jason Rezaian's detention, had given the family hope that his release was imminent. But since the final nuclear agreement was announced on July 14, the family has become desperate.

U.S. officials said they insisted on keeping the nuclear talks separate from discussions about Rezaian and other U.S. prisoners held in Iran in case the negotiations faltered -- a strategy endorsed by Rezaian's family.

Even so, Secretary of State John Kerry said U.S. officials raised the issue of captive Americans with Iran persistently during the nuclear deliberations.

Rezaian's brother called on Iran to follow its own laws and international norms and release his brother as soon as possible.

"We've watched Iran ignore their own laws and demonstrate they are not a nation of laws, as they so disingenuously claim to be," he said.

With reporting by AP and dpa