Human Rights

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Iran Sentences WaPo Reporter Jason Rezaian to Unspecified Prison Term

A spokesman for the Iranian judiciary has announced that Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter who was arrested by Iranian authorities in July 2014, was sentenced to prison, Reuters reported Sunday. No details were given regarding the length of his prison term.

Rezaian’s lawyer, Leila Ahsan, confirmed that her client was charged with “espionage, collaboration with hostile governments, gathering classified information and spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” according to Iran’s semi-official PressTV news service.

Despite international outrage over Rezaian’s arrest and detention, Iran proceeded to convict the reporter in a closed-door trial last month. At the time, Javad Karimi-Qoddusi, an influential member of Iran’s parliament, claimed that Rezaian had conspired with the United States to topple the Iranian regime.

In May, before the P5+1 powers reached a nuclear deal with Iran, the Post warned that its reporter’s treatment at the hands of Iranian authorities suggested that businesses seeking to establish commercial ties with Iran put their employees at risk of arbitrary arrest. After the nuclear agreement was announced, the State Department warned that Americans visiting Iran were subject to detention and imprisonment on false charges.

Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman, and Nizar Zakka, a U.S. resident, were both arrested by Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in recent weeks.

Rezaian’s conviction is one of the ways Iran has continued flouting international law in the wake of the nuclear deal. Earlier this month, the arrests of five journalists prompted the United Nations to call on the Islamic Republic to stop harassing reporters. Benjamin Weinthal, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, observed that these escalating crackdowns indicated that, rather than moderating Iran, the nuclear deal has led to a “stiffening” of its attitudes towards the U.S.

In Why Does Iran Keep Taking American Hostages?, which was published in the September 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Bridget Johnson wrote that one factor that has led to the continued imprisonment of Rezaian and other Americans is the Obama administration’s indifference.

The unwillingness of the American government to stand up on behalf of the hostages is also a major problem. Michael Rubin echoes what many lawmakers have been saying: The administration “forfeited our leverage” on the hostages during the nuclear talks. “I can’t think of a time in another administration—Democratic or Republican—that has been so indifferent to the taking of American hostages,” he said. “What we should have been saying is, ‘We are not going to come to the table, we are not going to come into the same room with you if you’re holding American hostages.’ Now we have inflated the cost of the hostages by giving $100 billion for nothing. Iran isn’t into goodwill.”

[Photo: Washington Post / YouTube ]