President Obama’s indifference toward Americans held hostage by his partners-in-peace in Tehran was stress-tested again on Sunday, as an Iranian court sentenced Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian to prison on “espionage” charges.
Rezaian was “convicted” after a secret “trial” on October 11, resulting in an equally secret “verdict” whose details the Iranians have never disclosed. He has been in prison for a year and a half already.
“In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters he was aware of the IRNA report but could not independently confirm it. It was not clear why Iran has not given details of the ruling against the 39-year-old Rezaian, who Iranian prosecutors accused of espionage,” Reuters reports.
The charges against Rezaian include “disseminating propaganda against the establishment” and “collaborating with hostile governments.” As an example of the latter, Iranian prosecutors cited Rezaian writing a letter to President Barack Obama.
Rezaian is also a pawn in the theatrical performance of “hardliners vs. moderates” the Iranians love to play for gullible Western media. His best hope for freedom lies in the Iranians deciding their great “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani and his allies could benefit from the goodwill generated by dramatically arranging the reporter’s release – a possibility alluded to by Washington Post foreign editor Douglas Jehl optimistically suggesting that Rezaian’s sentences might move his case closer to escaping from the Iranian judiciary, and passing into the hands of its political leaders.
“It’s these senior leaders who have the power to pardon, the power to overturn a verdict, the power to make things right,” Jehl told Reuters. In September, there were hints of a possible prisoner swap between Iran and the United States, but nothing seems to have come of those rumors.
“Even after keeping Jason in prison 488 days so far, Iran has produced no evidence of wrongdoing,” Jehl declared at the Washington Post. “His trial and sentence are a sham, and he should be released immediately.”
“No details,” said the Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, on Twitter. “No details. Lawyer told nothing. Opaque system persists in its cruelty.”
“We’ve seen the reports of a sentence in the case of U.S. citizen Jason Rezaian in Iran but cannot confirm the details ourselves at this time,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby. “If true, we call on the Iranian authorities to vacate this sentence and immediately free Jason so that he can be returned to his family.”
As things stand, the White House can only wait for the Iranians to tell them how much longer Jason Rezaian will spend in prison.