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Detained Washington Post reporter back in Iran court

08 June 2015, 21:32

Tehran - The mother of detained Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian said Monday her son is "very tired, very distressed" as the journalist returned to a Tehran courtroom for the second closed-door hearing in his espionage trial.

Rezaian, the Post's 39-year-old bureau chief, had his first closed-door hearing on May 26 in a Revolutionary Court on charges including espionage and propaganda against the Islamic Republic. The Post has strongly criticized the detention of its reporter, and American officials and rights groups have also pressed for his release.

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Rezaian's mother, Mary, told The Associated Press after his second hearing ended on Monday afternoon that she does not know how many more sessions there will be or how the trial is going.

She and Rezaian's wife, Yeganeh Salehi, were both at the courthouse Monday but they were only allowed in a waiting hall and not in the courtroom itself.

"I just know that my son is innocent. As his mother, I wanted to come and show my support. Six months ago I was here and they told me 'leave and come back for the trial'. I came back a month ago. I am here for the trial, but they are not permitting me to see him" during the hearings, Mary Rezaian said. "He is very tired, very distressed because he does not understand why he is being held."

"He is being accused of being a master spy when all he was doing was reporting on a country that he loves. So it is very hard for him. Very, very hard for him. And of course he misses his wife," she added. "So two years they have been married, one year he has been in prison. It is a very, very difficult thing."

She said she has been in Iran for a month and has been allowed to see her son briefly twice.

Rezaian, his wife and two photojournalists were detained on July 22 in Tehran. All were later released except Rezaian, who has been held over 300 days.

Salehi left the courthouse with Rezaian's mother in a white taxi. She declined to comment to waiting reporters, saying only: "I am not in a good state."

Iran's official IRNA news agency reported that two other people detained with Rezaian were also in court Monday. It did not elaborate or say who those two are.

Rezaian's defense lawyer, Leila Ahsan, previously said that Salehi and one of the two unnamed photojournalists also face trial. Calls to Ahsan were not immediately returned on Monday.

As in the May hearing, reporters gathered in front of the courthouse gate did not see Rezaian, his lawyer or the other two co-defendants arrive for the session. In Iran, authorities usually bring those charged in sensitive cases into the building through another gate, which is closed to the public.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency reported that Rezaian defended himself in English, and that a translation of his statements was handed to Judge Abolghassem Salavati by a translator.

Rezaian is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who was born and spent most of his life in the United States. Iran does not recognize other nationalities for its citizens.

Salehi, a reporter for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, remains in Iran, barred from traveling abroad, the Post has said.

At his first hearing, the court alleged that Rezaian had written to President Barack Obama and also cited a trip he made to the U.S. Consulate in Dubai, Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency reported at the time.

Martin Baron, the Post's executive editor, has disputed the nature of the alleged correspondence, saying that Rezaian filled out an online job application for the Obama administration after the 2008 election, though he was never hired.

The Post has said Rezaian faces 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted. His brother, Ali Rezaian, earlier said that Jason had visited the consulate in Dubai to get a U.S. visa for his wife.

- AP


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