TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Detained Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian will appear in an Iranian court Monday for what likely will be the last hearing in his closed-door espionage trial, his lawyer said Saturday.
Lawyer Leila Ahsan told The Associated Press that Monday’s court session will be devoted to her defense of Rezaian, the Post’s Tehran bureau chief.
“Almost certainly, Monday will be my client’s final court hearing unless something unpredictable happens,” Ahsan said. “I’ve already prepared a comprehensive bill of defense to hand over to the judge. I’ll also (speak) in the courtroom to prove that Rezaian is innocent.”
Ahsan did not elaborate on her defense strategy, though she said that under Iran’s new penal code, Rezaian should have been freed on July 22, the anniversary of his detention. “Unfortunately, it has not happened yet,” she said.
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Ahsan said it’s not clear how long will it take before the judge issues a verdict.
Rezaian, his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and two photojournalists were detained along with him on July 22, 2014, in Tehran. All were later released except Rezaian. Salehi, a journalist for The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi, reportedly has been banned from leaving Iran.
Rezaian reportedly faces up to 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court on charges that include espionage and distributing propaganda against the Islamic Republic. The Post, the U.S. government and press freedom organizations have criticized his trial.
Rezaian is an Iranian-American who holds dual citizenship, which Iran doesn’t recognize. His detention, and those of other Americans in Iran, had been mentioned by U.S. officials as world powers and Iran reached a deal over its contested nuclear program. However, all remain held.
Martin Baron, the Post’s executive editor, called Monday’s hearing a “critical moment” in a trial that saw “baseless and absurd” charges leveled against Rezaian.
“We call again on Iran’s Revolutionary Court, even at this late date, to demonstrate fairness and justice that could only result in Jason’s acquittal and immediate release,” Baron said in a statement. This hearing “presents Iran with an opportunity to bring this nightmare to a long-overdue and humane resolution, by exonerating Jason and his wife, Yeganeh, and allowing them the freedom that is their right.”
Associated Press writer Tom Strong in Washington contributed to this report.