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May 27, 2015

Iranian American reporter faces espionage trial in Iran

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A closed trial began in Tehran yesterday for Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who is charged with espionage, colluding with hostile governments and anti-government propaganda.

Rezaian holds both Iranian and U.S. citizenship. He was arrested with his wife last July and spent the year in prison in Iran. His wife was released on bail in October.

“He never should have been arrested. He never should have been taken and questioned,” Ali Rezaian, Jason’s brother, said.

The evidence against Rezaian consists of emails and research he conducted while reporting on Iran, as well as a letter to the Obama administration in 2008 in which he offered assistance in improving relations with Iran, Ali said.

Prosecutors also cite Rezaian’s contact with the embassy of the United Arab Emirates as grounds for arrest. Iranians frequently turn to other countries to obtain U.S. visas since there is no U.S. embassy in Iran, and Jason was trying to get a visa for his Iranian wife, Ali said.

The trial is closed to the public and it’s difficult to know what is going on, Ali said.
Although Razaian’s wife and mother each visited him during his imprisonment, the physical isolation is the most difficult aspect of his detainment and he is depressed, according to Ali.

The judge assigned to the case has handed down very harsh sentences, Ali said, but the family is hopeful that a sentence can be overturned by a higher court. “There’s an appeals process. Our hope is, as they look at the evidence, which they have, they will see that there’s no evidence there,” he said.


Warm up questions
  1. Where is Iran?
  2. What is espionage?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why would a journalist be accused of spying?
  2. Why do you think the trial is a closed one? What are the effects of having a closed trial? 
  3. What role does evidence play in the process of conviction? According to the interview, what is the evidence like in this case?
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