An Iranian court has reportedly convicted Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian in a case that has impeded efforts to ease hostility between Tehran and Washington.
Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejeie said on October 11 that a verdict had been issued in trial of Rezaian, a 39-year-old dual Iranian-American citizen, who has been imprisoned in Iran for more than a year on espionage charges.
"This verdict can be appealed. The time for an appeal is not yet over. So the court waits and if it doesn't receive an appeal...the verdict becomes final," Ejeie said, without detailing the judgment.
An announcer on Iranian state television later quoted Ejeie as saying that Rezaian had been "convicted" but did not broadcast footage of the spokesman making such a remark, AFP reported.
"He has been convicted.... But I don't have the details of his verdict," ISNA news agency quoted Ejeie as saying.
He added that the paper's Tehran bureau chief had 20 days to appeal the verdict.
Rezaian’s brother, Ali, said the reported verdict was "just another sad chapter in his 14-month illegal imprisonment and opaque trial process."
He accused Iranian authorities of "an unconscionable pattern ... of silence, obfuscation, delay and a total lack of adherence to international law, as well as Iranian law."
Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron called Ejeie’s initial statement "vague and puzzling."
"We have no further information at this time and it is not clear whether this ruling includes a verdict or a sentence -- or even whether its contents have been communicated to Jason or his lawyer," Baron said.
Post foreign editor Douglas Jehl said the vague nature of the announcement showed the case was not just about espionage but that Rezaian was a bargaining chip in a "larger game."
The U.S. State Department said it was closely monitoring the 39-year-old California native's fate and repeated its call that he be released.
"We've seen the news reports concerning a verdict in the case of U.S. citizen Jason Rezaian, but have not yet seen any official confirmation or details of a specific verdict from Iranian authorities," State Department spokesman John Kirby said.
"We continue to call for all charges against Jason to be dropped and for him to be immediately released," Kirby added.
Iran has accused Rezaian of collecting confidential information and giving it to hostile governments, writing a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and acting against national security.
The Washington Post has called the charges absurd. The case has been denounced by Washington, as well as major press freedom organizations around the world.
Baron said that "if indeed a ruling has been issued and is now being reviewed, this puts the onus on Iran's senior leaders to demonstrate the fairness and justice that could only lead to Jason's exoneration and release.”