Iran sentences Washington Post reporter, but verdict remains unknown

A ruling has been issued in the trial of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, Iran's judiciary said Sunday, but details of the verdict have not been released. 

Vahid Salemi/AP Photo/File
Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American correspondent for the Washington Post, smiles as he attends a presidential campaign of President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Iran in this April 11, 2013 file photo. Iran's official IRNA news agency reported Oct. 11 that the verdict against Rezaian has been issued. Rezaian, the Post's Tehran bureau chief, is accused of charges including espionage in a closed-door trial that has been widely criticized by the U.S. government and press freedom organizations.

Iran's judiciary said on Sunday that a ruling had been issued in the espionage trial of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, but the newspaper said Tehran was working a political angle by not revealing details of the verdict.

The July 2014 arrest of California-born Rezaian, the Post's Tehran bureau chief, has been a sensitive issue for Washington and Iran, and Sunday's announcement did little to resolve it.

"The ruling on this case has been issued. There is still the possibility of this ruling being appealed and it is not final," Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei told a televised news conference in Tehran.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States was monitoring the case closely. "We continue to call for all charges against Jason to be dropped and for him to be immediately released," Kirby said.

Iran has accused Rezaian of collecting confidential information and giving it to hostile governments, writing a letter to US President Barack Obama and acting against national security. The Post has dismissed the charges as absurd. The final hearing in his trial was on Aug. 10.

It was not clear if Rezaian or his lawyers had been advised of the verdict, and Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said the statement from Tehran was "vague and puzzling."

"We have no further information at this time and it is not clear whether this ruling includes a verdict or a sentence..."

"LARGER GAME"

Post foreign editor Douglas Jehl said the vague nature of Iran's announcement showed that Rezaian's case was not just about espionage and that the reporter was a bargaining chip in a "larger game."

"It's increasingly clear that the final decision about how Jason's case will be handled will be made by political authorities, not by judicial ones," Jehl told Reuters.

Rezaian's brother Ali had noted on Friday that his brother had been imprisoned for 444 days - the same length of time that American embassy staff were held after the 1979 seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran.

In a statement, he said Sunday's announcement "follows an unconscionable pattern by Iranian authorities of silence, obfuscation, delay and a total lack of adherence to international law, as well as Iranian law."

Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani hinted last month at the possibility that Rezaian could be freed in exchange for Iranian prisoners in the United States, but officials have played down the possibility of such a swap.

Two other US citizens – Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, a former US Marine Corps sergeant – also are being held in Iran. Robert Levinson, a private investigator, disappeared there in 2007.

Their cases have been raised in subsequent talks, including between Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry when they met during the UN General Assembly in New York last month. No progress was announced.

(Reporting by Sam Wilkin in Dubai and Bill Trott in Washington; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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