Report: US reporter held in Iran facing ‘espionage’ charges

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A Washington Post journalist detained in Iran for over eight months is accused of “espionage” and “acting against national security,” the semiofficial Fars news agency reported Sunday.

The report did not elaborate on the source of the information, but the agency is regarded as close to Iran’s hard-liners.

Iranian officials have previously said Jason Rezaian is facing “security” charges and that he will stand trial before the Revolutionary Court – which mainly hears sensitive cases involving national security.

Rezaian’s lawyer, Leila Ahsan, declined to comment on the specific charges against her client, but told The Associated Press she had finished studying the text of the indictment and would brief Rezaian’s family in the coming days. Ahsan added that she visited Rezaian in prison last month.

“He appeared to be in good health and spirits. I can see him anytime. Jason asked me to provide a strong defense. I’m in constant touch with his wife and family. I’ve requested that the court hold the trial as soon as possible,” she said.

Rezaian, along with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and two photojournalists were detained on July 22 in Tehran. All were later released except Rezaian, who is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen. Iran does not recognize dual nationality. The Post, U.S. officials and Rezaian’s family have all called for his release. When contacted, Rezaian’s brother Ali declined to comment.

Reacting to the Fars report that Rezaian will face espionage charges, Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said, “Any charges of that sort would be absurd, the product of fertile and twisted imaginations.”

“We are left to repeat our call on the Iranian government to release Jason, and in the meantime, we are counting on his lawyer to mount a vigorous defense,” Baron said in a statement.

The Fars report alleged that Rezaian had obtained economic and industrial information from Iran and sold it to unnamed Americans. It also linked him to Omid Memarian, an independent Iranian journalist based in the U.S.

“Selling Iran’s economic and industrial information at a time of sanctions is exactly like selling food to the enemy at a time of war,” Fars claimed.

In an email to The Associated Press in New York, Memarian said he had been singled out in the Fars report because he has been outspoken about Rezaian’s condition and his innocence since the journalist’s arrest.

“Now that the Iranian intelligence has been incapable of presenting any proof that Jason did something wrong, they spread lies about him and his colleagues-friends to influence the upcoming court,” Memarian said.

Iran is subject to crippling international sanctions over its nuclear program, which Western nations suspect is aimed at developing an atomic weapon. Iran insists the program is for purely peaceful purposes.

By The Associated Press