Washington Post Seeks U.N. Assistance to Get Reporter Jason Rezaian Back from Iran

Jason Rezaian

Jason Rezaian’s employers at the Washington Post have turned to the United Nations for help in freeing him from Iranian prison, following a nuclear deal in which the White House failed to even bring up U.S. citizens currently jailed in the Islamic Republic.

Noting that Rezaian, former Tehran bureau chief, has been subjected to “a catalogue of physical mistreatment and psychological abuse while being refused basic legal rights”— treatment that “violates Iran’s own constitution”— the Post filed a petition with the U.N. Human Rights Council, asking them to pressure Iran into releasing the reporter.

“Every aspect of his case — his incarceration, his trial, the conditions of his imprisonment — has been a disgraceful violation of human rights and a violation of common decency,” said Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron.

Among the offenses listed in the petition are months of solitary confinement for Rezaian, “grueling interrogations and inadequate medical treatment for Rezaian’s deteriorating health.” He is said to have been deprived of medication for high blood pressure, among other ailments, suffering from chronic infections and dropping almost 50 pounds in captivity.

Also, Iran gave no public explanation for the reporter’s sudden arrest, beyond vaguely accusing him of “espionage” and spreading “propaganda against the establishment.” He has not been allowed to review the evidence against him.

The Post says it was hoping Rezaian, who is from California and holds dual U.S. — Iranian citizenship, might be freed by magnanimous Iran after its nuclear deal with the U.S. and Europe was announced last week, but so far those hopes have not been realized.

A more cynical variety of optimism holds that Rezaian was imprisoned as part of a power play between Iranian hardliners who disapproved of negotiating with the West and the relatively “moderate” government of President Hassan Rouhani, so now that the nuclear game is over and Iran ran the table, the reporter’s usefulness as a pawn has ended. The pessimistic flip side to that optimism is that Rezaian’s captors will not release him swiftly, because they fear it would be seen as a sign of weakness or an admission of error.