Jason Rezaian’s Lawyer Prevented from Responding to Iranian Prosecutor’s Accusations

Jason's wife Yeganeh Salehi and mother Mary Rezaian at the courthouse. Image from ICHRI and used with permission.

Jason's wife Yeganeh Salehi and mother Mary Rezaian at the courthouse. Image from ICHRI and used with permission.

This post first appeared on iranhumanrights.org and is published here in collaboration with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. 

The blatant denial of due process on display on the last day of Jason Rezaian’s trial on August 10, 2015, when his lawyer was not allowed to present arguments in response to the prosecutor, confirms the political and pre-ordained nature of the prosecution of the Washington Post reporter, who has spent the last year behind bars in Iran.

“During Monday’s session I presented an oral defense of my client but there was no opportunity for me to respond after the prosecutor’s representative spoke. [Therefore] I submitted my written response to the court,” Rezaian’s lawyer, Leila Ahsan, told ISNA (the Iranian Students News Agency).

One reporter told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) that Rezaian’s mother informed the reporters no one was able to interview Jason’s wife, Yeganeh Salehi, because she had been banned from speaking to the media.

Judge Salavati, of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court, presided over Rezaian’s case. Salavati has a long history of close cooperation with the intelligence arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and is routinely handpicked by the judiciary to preside over political cases, reportedly due to the notoriously harsh sentences he hands down.

Salavati’s sharp curtailment of the work of the defense, and his refusal to allow Rezaian’s wife and mother to witness the closed-door proceedings is yet another indication of the impartiality of the judicial process and the political nature of the prosecution of Rezaian.

Throughout his time in prison in Iran, Rezaian has been consistently denied any semblance of due process. He was arrested and held for months without being informed of the charges filed against him, he was denied a choice of counsel, and his counsel was not allowed to provide full and effective representation during his trial.

A former activist who was previously tried by Judge Salavati in connection with the state crackdown on peaceful protestors that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election told the ICHRI, “During my trial the prosecutor said a lot of things that were untrue but when it was my lawyer’s turn to speak, Judge Salavati cut him off after only a few minutes….That’s when I realized that trying to present a defense through my lawyer was meaningless and I was convinced the judge knew what his verdict was going to be before the trial began.”

Fars News Agency, the Vatan newspaper, and other media outlets with ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and other hardline factions accused Rezaian of espionage and national security crimes months before the start of his trial—unsubstantiated accusations that became a central part of the prosecutor’s case.

The court’s decision on the charges against Rezaian, which include “espionage” and “cooperation with enemy states,” is expected in a week, his lawyer Leila Ahsan told ISNA.

Referring to the recent nuclear agreement and the potential for improved relations between Iran and Western governments, Rezaian’s mother expressed hope that her son would be released soon. “Jason was a reporter like you and his sources were the same as yours,” Mary Rezaian was quoted by ISNA.

“Now is the time for Iran’s senior leaders to end this ‘judicial process,’ with its sick brew of farce and tragedy. Jason and his wife, Yeganeh, who has been out on bail, deserve to be exonerated and to be given back their freedom and lives,” Martin Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, said in a statement on August 10, 2015.

Jason Rezaian, 38, holds dual Iranian and US citizenship, and has been the Washington Post correspondent in Tehran since 2012. Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who worked for the UAE newspaper The National as their Tehran correspondent, were arrested in Tehran on July 22, 2014. Salehi was released in October 2014, but Rezaian has remained in prison since that time.

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