Could Iran prisoner swap free jailed American journalist?

The potential deal could mean the released of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who has been detained for more than 18 months and was recently sentenced to an undisclosed prison term.

AP Photo/Vahid Salemi
Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American correspondent for the Washington Post, has been held in Iranian prison for more than 18 months. The United States has reportedly offered a prison sway in exchange for the journalist and possibly other Americans.

The United States may be seeking a prisoner swap with Iran that would free a Washington Post reporter held by Iranian authorities on spying charges since 2014.

Multiple news agencies reported this week that unnamed American officials have proposed a potential exchange for Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American journalist who served as the Washington Post's Tehran bureau chief, along with several other Americans thought to be held in Iranian jails.

The details of the prospective prison trade were not specified.

Mr. Rezaian was convicted of spying earlier this year in a closed-door trial many criticized as unjustified. He was taken into custody in July 2014 along with his wife, after being accused of breaching state secrecy laws and posing a risk to Iranian national security. The Post sent Rezaian to Tehran in 2012.

Iran levied four charges against Rezaian, including espionage, his lawyer told the Washington Post, but later released his wife, Yeganeh Salehi. Rezaian was sentenced in October, though the actual terms of the punishment or the length of his prison sentence have yet to be revealed.

The Washington Post has maintained Rezaian's innocence and has repeatedly called for his release.

“Every day that Jason is in prison is an injustice," said Douglas Jehl, The Post’s foreign editor, earlier this year. “He has done nothing wrong.”

But with a growing international outcry, and reports of recent talks between the countries following a historic nuclear pact last year, there is renewed hope for progress for his release, though one unnamed White House official refused to comment on the topic to Reuters this week.

“We're not going to comment on every public remark by Iranian officials concerning our detained and missing citizens,” the official said. “We continue to make all efforts to bring our citizens home."

"Some Americans contact us sometimes, asking us to exchange him with other detainees, but the sentence has not been announced yet," said judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, to Iran's state-controlled Fars news agency.

Reuters also noted that discussions were held in December about the prisoners between Iran’s Foreign Minsiter Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Other Americans are believed to be held in Iranian prisons, but there was no official word on whether they would be a part of a prisoner swap, Reuters reported.

Those Americans include former US Marine Amir Hekmati, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, businessman Siamak Namazi, and IT expert Nizar Zakka. An American private investigator, Robert Levinson, disappeared in the country in 2007, as well.

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