Lawyer: Washington Post reporter in Iran faces 4 charges

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A jailed Washington Post reporter in Iran faces four charges, including an espionage charge, his lawyer told the newspaper Monday.

Lawyer Leila Ahsan told the Post that Rezaian also faces charges of “conducting propaganda against the establishment,” “collaborating with hostile governments” and “collecting information about internal and foreign policy and providing them to individuals with malicious intent.”

Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said in a statement that Ahsan’s meeting Monday with Rezaian lasted 90 minutes in the presence of an official translator. Baron said the charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison.

“The grave charges against Jason that Iran has now disclosed could not be more ludicrous,” Baron said. “It is absurd and despicable to assert, as Iran’s judiciary is now claiming, that Jason’s work first as a freelance reporter and then as the Post’s Tehran correspondent amounted to espionage or otherwise posed any threat to Iranian national security.”

Ahsan’s comments were the first independent confirmation of the exact charges Rezaian faces.

Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency, which is considered close to hard-liners in the Islamic Republic, last week reported that the journalist was accused of “espionage” and “acting against national security.”

Rezaian, 39, was arrested on July 22 along with his Iranian wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who is a reporter for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, and two other journalists whose names have not been made public. All but Rezaian have since been released.

The Post has criticized the limits on Rezaian’s access to legal assistance. Deputy U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday if the reports were true, the charges are “patently absurd” and should be dropped immediately and he should be freed.

His family had earlier hoped to hire lawyer Masoud Shafiei, who represented three American hikers arrested by Iranian authorities in 2009. He however was prevented from completing the formalities needed to represent Rezaian, leading the family to eventually hire Ahsan. She only met him once briefly, before she had officially been named as his attorney, prior to Monday’s meeting.

Rezaian’s detention and possible trial comes as Iran negotiates with world powers over its contested nuclear program.

By The Associated Press