A Washington Post reporter held in Iran for more than 10 months had his first court appearance Tuesday, the latest development in a controversial espionage prosecution that has sparked condemnation from press freedom advocates and drawn concern from the White House.
Jason Rezaian, the Post’s Tehran correspondent, remained in custody after the closed-door hearing, which lasted about three hours. The judge did not announce a date for the next session.
Requests from Rezaian’s family and others that the trial be held in public session were not granted.
Rezaian, a 39-year-old Iranian American and a native of California, was read the charges against him but did not begin his defense, reported Iran’s semi-official media. The charges include espionage and engaging in anti-Iranian propaganda, according to his lawyer, Leila Ahsan, who has denied the allegations.
Accompanying Rezaian in court were his attorney and a translator, reported the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Authorities provided no further details in the sensitive case.
Also present in court Tuesday was Rezaian’s wife, fellow journalist Yeganeh Salehi, who faces related charges in the prosecution, Iranian media reported.
Salehi, Tehran correspondent for the Abu Dhabi-based daily the National, was seen leaving the courthouse area in tears and getting in a taxi with Rezaian’s mother, who has been in the Iranian capital awaiting the trial.
Salehi, an Iranian national, was free on bail.
A third journalist charged in the case, a photographer whose name has not been made public, was not seen at the courthouse. That defendant, an Iranian citizen, also was free on bail.
The jailed Washington Post reporter holds dual U.S. and Iranian citizenship. Iran does not recognize any foreign nationality status of its citizens.
The Washington Post has vociferously denied the charges against Rezaian and said its correspondent was solely engaged in appropriate and legal journalistic activities in Iran.
“There is no justice in this system, not an ounce of it, and yet the fate of a good, innocent man hangs in the balance,” Martin Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post, said in a statement before the trial began. “Iran is making a statement about its values in its disgraceful treatment of our colleague, and it can only horrify the world community.”
Efforts by the Washington Post to obtain a visa for a senior editor to travel to Tehran during the trial met no response from the Iranian government, Baron said.
Rezaian, who was arrested July 22 in Tehran, has been able to meet only once with his lawyer in a 90-minute session, his family says.
The Obama administration has pressed Tehran to release Rezaian and other jailed U.S. citizens. The issue has come up on the sidelines of ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers, including the United States.
Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran and Times staff writer McDonnell from Beirut.
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