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Society & Culture

Jason Rezaian, Crime: Journalism

January 24, 2015
7 min read
Jason Rezaian, Crime: Journalism


Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who has been in detention since July 2014, has been moved out of solitary confinement. A statement issued by Rezaian's brother, Ali Rezaian, on Friday, January 23, said he had been moved to a new cell. it was unclear whether the move signalled progress on the case of Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi.

On January 14, Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency said Rezaian had been charged and would be tried in a Revolutionary Court. It did not describe the charges against him or say when the trial would begin. Rezaian had been kept in solitary confinement since his arrest.

Rezaian was officially informed of the charges against him on December 6, 2014. However it was only five weeks later that details regarding his case, particularly his whereabouts, were announced. Then, on January 14, Tehran’s Attorney-General Abbas Jafari said investigations were finished and Rezaian’s case would be sent to the Revolutionary Court.

Tehran’s attorney general also reported that Rezaian’s mother had traveled to Iran and met the magistrate in charge of her son’s case who provided no new information regarding which branch of the Revolutionary Court would try Rezaian or what he was accused of doing.

Martin Baron, Executive Editor at the Washington Post, issued a statement saying, “We still don’t know what charges the Iranian authorities have brought against our correspondent Jason Rezaian, but we hope the referral of his case to a Revolutionary Court represents a step forward toward Jason’s prompt release.”

In an exclusive interview with EuroNews in November 2014, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, secretary of the Iranian Judiciary’s High Council for Human Rights, said that Rezaian would soon been pardoned and released. Regarding the charges against him and the case’s progress, he told the news site “I’m not in a position to judge, I’m just reporting that security officials filed charges against him that he was involved in activities that went beyond journalism.” When pressed for clarity, he added “activities that breach the security of the state.”

Despite Larijani’s comments over two months ago, Rezaian remains in jail with no evidence to suggest he will be pardoned.

Name: Jason Rezaian

Born: 1976

Occupation: The Washington Post correspondent in Tehran since 2012.

Charges: Unknown.

Jason Rezaian was arrested in July 2014 with his wife, Iranian journalist Yeganeh Salehi, also a journalist. Despite international pressure and condemnation regarding his arrest, the Islamic authorities provided scarce information on the charges against him. It was reported on September 23 that Rezaian had been forced to confess, though details of the confession have not been released.

Reporting in Iran “is like walking a tightrope,” Jason Rezaian told his friends a month before he was arrested. “When you fall down, it is over.”

Born in California to an Iranian father and American mother, Rezaian has dual citizenship. He began his career in journalism at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he wrote a blog entitled “Inside Iran.” Islamic Republic officials later granted him a permit from the Islamic Republic to work in Tehran as a Washington Post correspondent.

Reports indicate that Rezaian was on good terms with President Rouhani and his cabinet. He and his wife Yeganeh Salehi, a reporter for the Dubai-based journal The National, accompanied Rouhani when he traveled abroad on a number of occasions, publishing articles about the trips afterwards.

On July 22, 2014 security forces raided their house, confiscated Rezaian’s notebooks and laptop and arrested him and his wife. Although it was initially reported that two guests were also arrested at Rezaian and Salehi’s residence at the same time, it later emerged that this was not the case. However, two other journalists, an Iranian-American photographer and her husband, were arrested on the same date. Their names are not known.

“Jason Rezaian knew he was being watched,” the New York Times reported on August 7. “A man on a motorcycle had been following him and his wife for weeks, his colleagues said. The tail was so blatant that Mr. Rezaian...had even managed to take a picture of the license plate.”

Salehi was released on October 6. Rezaian remains in detention, and authorities have failed to supply information about the charges he faces. The two unnamed journalists arrested on the same date have been released on bail but no additional information has been made available.

On September 23, IranWire reported that the Revolutionary Guards' Intelligence Unit obtained a forced confession from Jason Rezaian under duress. In a brief conversation, an Iranian security official who withheld his name due to the sensitivity of the case told IranWire that the Guards pushed Rezaian to confess in order to “influence Iran's nuclear negotiations with Western powers, including the United States.”

A hardliner site reported: “After Jason Rezaian was confronted with videos and evidence from intelligence agencies, he admitted he was connected to Western intelligence agencies. He and his wife now live in a safe house in Tehran and enjoy the pool and their favorite foods.”

Sources told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the “top-ranking officials in the Iranian Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches were uninformed regarding the details of the arrests. Iran’s Prosecutor General and Spokesperson for the Iranian Judiciary, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, told reporters on July 25 that he was not informed of the detentions. “I have no information about this case. You must give me time to clarify everything,” he stated in a report published by the Fars News Agency.

While In New York during September’s United Nations General Assembly meeting, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that he and President Rouhani had tried hard to ensure the couple were well treated, adding that Rezaian faces serious allegations. He did not elaborate on the nature of these allegations.

“The latest interference with the press may well be intended to embarrass [President Rouhani],” wrote  Laura Secor in the New Yorker on August 15. “Rouhani’s pursuit of a nuclear accord with six world powers faces fierce opposition from hardliners within the Iranian establishment who would be all too happy to see him fail. Now the president is forced to explain to international interlocutors exactly why his country has abducted a law-abiding Washington Post correspondent on what are recognizably trumped-up charges. Don’t think that Rouhani is in charge, his opponents might be saying to foreign powers; in the end you will need to deal with us...The attacks on domestic journalists serve a similar purpose at home, signaling to Iranians the limits of Rouhani’s reach and the persistence of the security state.”

The official did not elaborate on how the confession would be used or when it would be broadcast. Many Iranian journalists that have been imprisoned and then released have said they were forced to confess on camera to a number of charges including espionage, “acting against the holy Islamic Republic,” and “endangering national security.” Many Revolutionary Guard commanders, assigned by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have expressed their dissatisfaction with President Hassan Rouhani’s government’s approach to negotiations with the West.

Recent reports say that Rezaian is being held in Ward 2-A of Evin Prison. The official that IranWire spoke with clarified that Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, were arrested at their home, and that the other couple arrested were detained at a different location, contrary to previous reports. The official also confirmed a caretaker was killed during the arrest. He worked at the building where the two unnamed arrested journalists lived and not at Rezaian and Salehi’s residence, as previously reported. The caretaker’s family is being pressured not to talk to the media.

On October 30, Rezaian’s 100th day of imprisonment, his family released an online statement calling for Iranian authorities to release him. The family also referred to Rezaian’s arrest as a “farce”.  A state department spokesperson called for his release on the same day.

According to Human Rights Watch and other sources, authorities told the dual-national journalist on November 18 that his case was still being investigated and that he would continue to be held in Evin Prison. Rezaian's brother confirmed on December 3 that the family had been informed that the journalist’s detention would be extended. It is not known why there was a delay between the decision being reached by the judiciary and the family being informed.

Having visited her son in prison last December, Rezaian’s mother said he had lost a lot of weight and was physically weak. According to Fars News Agency, she has visited him twice since his incarceration. 



This is part of IranWire’s series Crime: Journalism, a portfolio on the legal and political persecution of Iranian journalists and bloggers, published in both Persian and English.

Please contact [email protected] with comments, updates or further information about cases. 

For more information, visit Journalism is Not a Crime, documenting cases of jailed journalists in Iran.

 This is part of IranWire’s series Crime: Journalism, a portfolio on the legal and political persecution of Iranian journalists and bloggers, published in both Persian and English.

Please contact [email protected] with comments, updates or further information about cases. 


Read other cases in the series:

Jila Baniyaghoob

Isa Saharkhiz

Ali Ashraf-Fathi 

Mojtaba Pourmohsen

Mahsa Jozeini


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