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Iranian Lawmakers Say Efforts Under Way To Free U.S. Reporter

  • RFE/RL

Iranian lawmakers attending a conference in New York have divulged that efforts are underway to free Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who was jailed over a year ago on espionage charges.

"There are now some efforts which are being made and I hope that with those the problem will be solved," a senior Iranian lawmaker told reporters in New York, speaking through an interpreter, on condition of anonymity.

"We are not interested in seeing him in our prisons, we don't want him to continue to be in our prisons," the lawmaker said. "I don't have any detailed information about his case, because this has to with the judiciary of the country."

Separately, Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran's Parliament, told National Public Radio that there are "practical" ways to release Rezaian, such as through a swap of prisoners with the United States.

"There is a number of Iranians in prison here [in the U.S.]. Definitely for matters of this sort, one can come up with solutions. I think your politicians know about those ways," Larijani said outside a conference of parliamentary speakers in New York September 3.

The Iranian speaker does not have direct authority over Rezaian, but he's close to those who do: his brother is the head of Iran's judiciary.

Iranian deputy foreign minister Hassan Qashqavi last week dismissed the possibility of a prisoner exchange, even as he noted that the United States is currently holding 19 "innocent people under sanctions charges" and that Iran wants them freed.

No verdict in Rezaian's trial has been announced since the last court hearing in early August. The Post has dismissed the charges against him as "absurd" and urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to help secure his release.

Rezaian's lawyer, Leila Ahsan, told Iran's Tasnim news agency that he had been accused of collecting confidential information, handing it to hostile governments, writing a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, and acting against national security.

Obama has called on Tehran to release Rezaian and two other detained Americans - Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati.

Rezaian, 39, who was born in California and has dual citizenship in the United States and Iran, was arrested with his Iranian wife Yeganeh Salehi at their home on July 22, 2014. Salehi was later freed but Rezaian, who had been reporting for the Post in Tehran for two years, was charged with espionage.

Iran and the United States have not had diplomatic ties since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. However, a July 14 nuclear deal between Iran, the United States, and other major powers has fueled hopes of a thaw in relations between Tehran and Washington.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and National Public Radio