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Secret Spy Trial of US Journalist Restarts in Iran

Jason Rezaian of the 'Washington Post' has now been held for more than 300 days in Iran's notorious Evin Prison, accused of espionage. His family and colleagues say the charges against him are absurd.

by VICE News
Jun 8 2015, 10:00am

Photo by Vahid Salemi/AP

The espionage trial of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian in Tehran restarted on Monday, Iran's official IRNA news agency has reported.

It was the second closed-door hearing for the Post's 39-year-old bureau chief, who was detained with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and two photojournalists on July 22, 2014. All were later released except Rezaian, who has now been held for more than 300 days.

Rezaian had his first hearing on May 26 in a Revolutionary Court on charges including espionage and propaganda against the Islamic Republic. His family, US officials, the Washington Post, and rights groups have called the accusations absurd, reported the New York Times

IRNA said two other people detained with Rezaian were also in court on Monday. It did not elaborate or say who those two are, but Rezaian's defense lawyer, Leila Ahsan, has previously said Salehi and one of the two unnamed photojournalists also face trial.

Rezaian is a dual US-Iranian citizen who was born and spent most of his life in the United States. Salehi, a reporter for the National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, remains in Iran, barred from traveling abroad, the Post has said.

Related: Iran's 'Judge of Death' Presides Over 'Washington Post' Reporter's Trial

At his first hearing, the court alleged that Rezaian had written to President Barack Obama and also cited a trip he made to the US Consulate in Dubai, Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

Martin Baron, the Post's executive editor, has disputed the nature of the alleged correspondence, saying that Rezaian filled out an online job application for the Obama administration after the 2008 election, though he was never hired.

The paper has said Rezaian faces 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted. His brother, Ali Rezaian, earlier said that Jason had visited the consulate in Dubai to get a US visa for his wife.

For the last 10 months Rezaian has been kept in the notoriously harsh Evin Prison, which is used to hold activists and other political prisoners. Human rights organizations and former inmates say torture in the jail is "routine" and "widespread." 

Media in Iran is tightly censored by the state and the authorities routinely detain, imprison, and intimidate journalists deemed as critical of the regime. In 2014 Reporters Without Borders ranked Iran 173rd out of 180 countries on its World Press Freedom Index. Around 30 journalists are currently being detained by the Iranian authorities; the second highest number in the world.

Related: Anti-Islamic State Cartoon Contest Launched in Iran

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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