The Iranian government has convicted hostage American reporter Jason Rezaian of “espionage” in an outrageous secret trial.
“News of a verdict in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court initially came early Sunday, but court spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei did not specify the judgment,” reports Rezaian’s paper, the Washington Post. “In a state TV report late Sunday, Ejei said definitively that Rezaian was found guilty.”
The Iranians have not specified what Rezaian is guilty of or what his sentence will be. The “trial” wrapped up two months ago. Rezaian has already been imprisoned in Iran for 14 months. He has now been held hostage longer than the Americans seized in Tehran under President Jimmy Carter, a milestone Rezaian passed over the weekend.
“The judge who heard the case is known for handing down harsh sentences, and Rezaian potentially faces a sentence of 10 to 20 years,” the Post ominously notes. “It is not even known if Rezaian himself has been informed of the conviction.” His Iranian lawyer also appeared to be unaware of the conviction.
“Iran has behaved unconscionably throughout this case, but never more so than with this indefensible decision by a Revolutionary Court to convict an innocent journalist of serious crimes after a proceeding that unfolded in secret, with no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing,” said Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron in a statement.
“The contemptible end to this ‘judicial process’ leaves Iran’s senior leaders with an obligation to right this grievous wrong,” Baron continued. “Jason is a victim – arrested without cause, held for months in isolation, without access to a lawyer, subjected to physical mistreatment and psychological abuse, and now convicted without basis. He has spent nearly 15 months locked up in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, more than three times as long than any other Western journalists.”
Baron noted that under Iranian law, Rezaian has 20 days to appeal his sentence, which probably explains why the courts have not rushed to tell him about his conviction. “Now, I do not know what I am appealing against,” his lawyer Leila Ahsan complained to the New York Times.
“Unfortunately, this is not surprising given that this process has been opaque and incomprehensible from the start,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said helplessly. “Regardless of whether there has been a conviction or not, we continue to call for the government of Iran to drop all charges against Jason and release him immediately.”
So far, the Administration’s strategy of declaring itself puzzled by the proceedings, and hoping the Iranians will find it in their hearts to let Rezaian go, has proven utterly useless. President Obama decided not to make the fate of American hostages — including Rezaian, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant Amir Hekmati, and missing private investigator Robert Levinson — a condition of his $150 billion sanctions payoff plus nuclear weapons. The Iranians have not been inclined to give away anything beyond President Obama’s few demands, and they do not appear anxious to hold up their end of any bargains he did strike.
On the contrary, they are making a point of humiliating President Obama and declaring their defiant resistance to the few demands he placed on them, every chance they get. There were rumors the Iranians might let Rezaian and the others go to give the President a little good P.R. to help sell the nuclear deal to the American people, but when it became clear selling it was not necessary – the American people have no part whatsoever in this arrangement, nor does their Congress – those hopes evaporated. Some hoped Rezaian was merely a pawn in an Iranian factional power play, and would be released once his purpose had been served, but that has not happened, either.
The remaining hope is that Iran might trade its American hostages away in a prisoner exchange. Rezaian’s show trial and Kafkaesque secret “conviction” could be marketing ploys to increase his value for such an exchange, or perhaps other concessions made behind the scenes.