World

Iran convicts Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian

A court in Iran has convicted Iranian-American Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, but details have yet to be disclosed, Iran's ISNA news agency reported on Sunday, quoting a judiciary official.

Newspaper's Tehran bureau chief has been imprisoned for 444 days, accused of espionage

Jason Rezaian, seen here in a 2013 file photo, has been jailed in Iran for 444 days on charges of of collecting confidential information and giving it to hostile governments, writing a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and acting against national security. (Zoeann Murphy/Associated Press)

A court in Iran has convicted Iranian-American Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, but details have yet to be disclosed, Iran's ISNA news agency reported on Sunday, quoting a judiciary official.

"He has been convicted ... But I don't have the details of his verdict," the news agency quoted judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei as saying.

Ejei added that California-born Rezaian, the Washington Post's Tehran bureau chief, had 20 days to appeal the verdict.

Earlier Sunday, the newspaper said Tehran was working a political angle by not revealing details of the verdict.

The July 2014 arrest of Rezaian has been a sensitive issue for Washington and Iran, and Sunday's unclear 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," 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, 39, of collecting confidential information and giving it to hostile governments, writing a letter to U.S. 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."

Reporter a bargaining chip, says Post

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."

Ali Rezaian, brother of Jason Rezaian, seen in Washington in July, said the Iranian court'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." (Molly Riley/Associated Press)

"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 U.S. 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 U.S. citizens — Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. 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 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when they met during the U.N. General Assembly in New York last month. No progress was announced.

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