Iran’s imprisonment of Jason Rezaian is an affront to justice

Jason Rezaian must be acquitted and freed immediately. As the final hearing in the Iranian trial of The Post’s Tehran correspondent was brought to a close Aug. 10, the international community waits for a verdict.

Rezaian is an American Iranian journalist working for one of the most respected media organizations in the world. Iran has now illegally detained an innocent man for 13 months.

His arrest by Revolutionary Guards was arbitrary and illegal, taking place in the middle of the night with no indication of the charges brought against him until months later. The conditions of his detention at Evin Prison are also illegal. Rezaian has been subjected to long periods of solitary confinement, a tactic that was designed to extract a forced confession. This practice is in direct violation of Article 38 of the Iranian constitution. How can Iran justify violating its own laws? As a result of these tactics, Rezaian has suffered psychological and physical stress, severe weight loss and respiratory problems. Maintaining his detention in these conditions is unacceptable.

Jason Rezaian (Michael Cavna/The Washington Post)
Jason Rezaian (Michael Cavna/The Washington Post)

The charges against him have no factual basis. Nothing in his journalistic activities could ever be interpreted as spying, collaborating with hostile governments, or gathering confidential information or propaganda against the Islamic republic, as his charges allege. His trial has been closed to the public and the media, and contrary to international law, Rezaian has been given extremely limited opportunity to defend himself or present his defense.

The State Department has called the charges against Rezaian “absurd,” and President Obama has called on Iran to release him. Respected international journalists such as Christiane Amanpour and Anderson Cooper have denounced his detention and called for his release.

A few days ago, human rights expert David Kaye, the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, said Rezaian’s “continued detention violates basic rules that not only aim to protect journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and others but to guarantee everyone’s right to information.” Another human rights expert, Seong-Phil Hong, head of the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, added: “Mr. Rezaian seems to have been detained for the simple fact of having exercised his rights to freedom of expression, association and political participation. His rights to legal counsel of his choice and to due process of law seem to have been forgotten.”

It is said that Rezaian is the victim of an internal power struggle between rival Iranian factions. The Revolutionary Guards, responsible for Rezaian’s arrest, have been using him as a pawn in an ideological battle with Iran’s more moderate members of government, including President Hassan Rouhani. But even Rouhani has failed to fulfill his election campaign promises to improve journalists’ situations and press freedom in Iran.

It is unfortunate that the nuclear talks have not resulted in the release of all Americans unfairly detained in Iran. Indeed, the talks have been disappointing in their exclusion of human-rights issues. The Iranian authorities think they can put off releasing prisoners of conscience until some unspecified date. But every second they wait to release Rezaian is an affront to justice.

The only true path to peace is indeed through a greater respect for human rights. This path will need to include more than just Rezaian’s release. Reporters Without Borders has records of 10 journalists and 23 citizen-journalists in Iran’s prisons. Atena Ferghdani, Mohammad Sedegh Kabodvand and Narges Mohammadi, to name a few of these prisoners, are victims of an overall crackdown on press freedom that needs to be stopped.

The eyes of the world are upon you, Iran. Will you at last comprehend your obligations under Iranian and international law? Will you finally free an innocent man?

Christophe Deloire, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders.

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