Freed reporter Jason Rezaian works to ‘reclaim his life’ after detention in Iran

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was released from an Iranian prison after more than 500 days of detention, as part of an exchange between the two countries. Martin Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss Rezaian’s release and what may lie ahead.

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    U.S. envoy: Seeing Americans freed from Iran 'overwhelming'

    Rezaian, who was held on unspecified charges, spent the rest of his time with another inmate who spoke a different language, so "he was largely without human contact," Baron said. Later, his wife and mother were able to visit him once a week.

    Just before his release, American authorities couldn't locate his wife and mother, who were being held separately from Rezaian at the airport. Iranians told them the airplane with Rezaian had taken off without them.

    "In fact, the plane had not left at all," Baron said. "The Iranians were really playing with them, I think. Playing with their minds."

    Read the full transcript of this segment below:


    Ten days ago, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was released from an Iranian prison after more than 500 days' detention. He and three other Americans were part of a prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Iran. A fifth American was also released separately.

    Today, Rezaian visited the offices of The Washington Post, where executive editor Marty Baron said he was greeted with a standing ovation. He said Rezaian offered thanks for efforts on his behalf and sat in on a meeting of the newspaper's foreign reporting team, with his wife at his side.

    A few days ago, I interviewed Baron about Rezaian's lengthy captivity and what may lie ahead for him.

    Marty Baron, thank you very much for joining us.

    How is Jason Rezaian doing now?

  • MARTIN BARON, Executive Editor, The Washington Post:

    I think Jason is doing well.

    Physically, he seems in pretty good shape. And he's very happy to be back. He's in a position now where he is really just trying to reclaim his life, a life that had been sort of taken from him for 545 days. He's spending time with his wife, resting and doing really whatever he'd like to do now, because, as a free man, he can do that.


    How much is known about how he was treated while he was in prison? And is it fair to say he's recovering from what happened to him?


    Well, I think it's important to keep in mind that he was in solitary for 49 days. And, even after that, he was in a small cell with an individual who was from another country, a third country. They didn't share a language. He couldn't communicate with him regularly.

    And so he was largely without human contact during those 545 days, with the exception of the occasions when his wife and his mother could visit him, perhaps once a week or something like that, toward the latter period of his time in prison. So, it was a circumstance that nobody would want to deal with.


    And is he recovered from that experience?


    Well, look, it's hard for me to say.

    I mean, that's where his — for medical professionals to say, for his family to say. I'm not in a position to diagnose his condition or anything like that. He seems — he seemed in good spirits, and he seems physically OK. But, obviously, anybody who's been through something like that has a lot to deal with and a lot to process.


    Well, it certainly sounds as if it was touch and go right until to the end.

    We now know the Iranians held his mother and held his wife even after he was already on a plane ready to leave.


    Yes, it was a hairy situation there.

    In fact, the Iranians had separated his mother and his wife from him. They had been able to see each other at the airport briefly. And then they put his wife and his mother in a separate room, sort of locked them up, and kept them there for a while, and then after several hours indicated that the plane had already left and that they should go home.

    And, in fact, the plane had not left at all. They were supposed to be on the plane. And so this went on for quite some time, a lot of confusion. Everybody was searching for his wife and his mother. Their cell phones had been taken from them, and so nobody knew really what was going on.

    And so the Iranians were really playing with them, I think, and playing with their minds.


    I interviewed last week the lead negotiator for the United States on this release, Brett McGurk, who is the president's envoy. And he talked about what a tough process it was over 14 months. They were dealing with people who — some of whom had never even met an American before.

    Do you think the U.S. government did all it could to get Jason Rezaian out?


    Well, obviously, they did a lot.

    They negotiated with the Iranians alongside the nuclear talks for quite some time, and then kept talking with the Iranians after those nuclear talks concluded. We are very grateful for the efforts of the U.S. government, for all of them, actually, from John Kerry to Brett McGurk to all the way on down.

    And we — it's hard for us to assess those efforts, really. We weren't party to those discussions. And so we're just grateful that it was a positive outcome eventually.


    What do you know, Marty Baron, about Jason Rezaian's future? What are his plans professionally?


    I think that's something for him to decide right now. I'm not sure he has made any decisions along those lines.

    We have not wanted to bombard him with a lot of decisions right after emerging from prison after all this time. He is really spending time now with his wife, relaxing. They're just like any other couple, just trying to spend time with each other.

    And I don't think that he's really prepared to make a lot of decisions at this stage. He will in due time, and those decisions will be his to make, not ours.


    I gather that The Washington Post doesn't now have a reporter in Iran. Is that right? And either way, what are the plans for the future? Will you be having someone covering Iran for The Post?


    Well, obviously, Iran is a very important story, one that we want to cover in every way possible.

    But it's really premature to say whether we are going to have a correspondent there. Obviously, we're terribly upset and angry over how our correspondent was treated. This should never have been done. It was a grave injustice. He did no wrong. And the Iranian government produced no evidence of any wrongdoing.

    So, we would need some assurances from the Iranian government that this wouldn't happen again. But we're really not in a position to decide unilaterally, first of all, because the Iranian government has to allow us in, in the first place. And we will just have to wait and see. I think that that is a decision that will be made in due course.


    Martin Baron, the executive editor of The Washington Post, we thank you.


    Thank you.


    And, tomorrow night, we will talk with Matthew Trevithick. He's the fifth American recently released by Iran.

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