Legal gears turn slowly for U.S. reporter jailed in Iran

New lawyer takes over case of jailed Washington Post reporter in Iran

The newly appointed attorney for a Washington Post journalist jailed for more than seven months in Iran said Monday that she had begun the lengthy process of reviewing confidential files in the high-profile case.

Reached by telephone in the Iranian capital, the lawyer, Leila Ahsan, said she hoped that “within a couple of weeks” she would complete her examination of documents in the government’s prosecution of Jason Rezaian, the Post’s Tehran correspondent, and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, an Iranian journalist.

The lawyer, who represents Rezaian, 38, and his spouse, declined to provide any details on the contents of the secret dossier, which she characterized as “voluminous.”

The two journalists were arrested at their Tehran home July 22 on unspecified charges. Salehi was later released on bail, but Rezaian, a California native of Iranian ancestry who holds dual U.S and Iranian citizenship, has remained in custody.

U.S. authorities and the Washington Post have called for his release. The Post and Rezaian’s family have condemned the fact that Rezaian has been held for so long without legal counsel.

This week, Rezaian’s family publicly announced that Ahsan would be representing the imprisoned journalist.

In a statement, family members said that their preferred attorney, Masoud Shafii, “will not be permitted to represent Jason.” Shafii represented three U.S. hikers captured in Iran in 2009 and held for more than two years before their release. Shafii has reportedly had his passport confiscated since his work in the hikers’ case.

Martin Baron, executive editor of the Post, said in a statement that Iran’s treatment of Rezaian “has served to reinforce an impression of state-sponsored injustice.” To date, Baron said, the process has been “opaque and manifestly unfair.”

Iranian authorities have not clarified the charges against the two journalists, saying only vaguely that the case involves activities beyond their role as journalists.

Some have speculated that the detention was a move by hard-liners to embarrass the government of President Hassan Rouhani as it moves ahead on nuclear negotiations with six world powers, including the United States. Many conservative factions in Iran vehemently oppose any move toward a rapprochement with Washington after decades of hostility. The Obama administration seeks guarantees that Iran's nuclear efforts are only for peaceful purposes in exchange for a possible relaxation of economic sanctions imposed against Tehran.

The lawyer for the couple said she was reviewing the documents filed in Revolutionary Court, where the case is to be tried. The court presides over political and national security matters. All of the documentation is confidential and cannot be taken from the confines of the court, she said.

Once she has completed her review, the lawyer said, she would notify the judge, who would then set a date for trial. The lawyer could provide no timeline for how long Rezaian would remain in jail.

“I will do my best for my two clients and, God willing, everything will be settled,” the lawyer said.

Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran and staff writer McDonnell from Beirut.

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