The shroud of mystery and uncertainty surrounding the fate of imprisoned Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was partially lifted this week, revealing more of the ghastly workings of Iran’s judiciary.
Rezaian, a dual Iranian-American citizen commonly described by the English-language media as an “innocent pawn” in a “convoluted test of diplomatic gamesmanship,” has been imprisoned in Iran for 15 months on trumped-up espionage charges – and has continued to languish in captivity despite the nuclear deal that should have thawed the relations between Iran and the US. Instead, Iran’s conduct towards its Western captives (and, by extension, the West itself) has continued to be, in the words of Washington Post Foreign Editor Douglas Jehl, “outrageous” and intolerable.
Now, after months of ambiguity, one part of Rezaian’s verdict – a prison sentence – has been made public, at least partially. According to Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, who appeared on state TV to make a vague announcement on the case this week, Rezaian has been sentenced to prison for an unspecified term, the length of which has reportedly not been disclosed even to his lawyer.
The sad news, coming after months of speculations regarding Rezaian’s fate, was widely and sympathetically reported. Many news outlets juxtaposed the bleak headlines describing the gist of the verdict – which, according to Ejehi, has not yet been finalized – with photos and videos of a smiling Rezaian, highlighting the injustice (“travesty,” in the words of one outlet) of his sentence and the harsh reality of his captivity.
Understandably, The Washington Post in particular devoted extensive coverage to the sentence, focusing not just on the cruelty of Iran’s treatment of Rezaian and other captives (including Iranian dissenters and rights campaigners, on whom Tehran has also recently cracked down), but also on its arbitrariness – as well as the overarching message Iran may be trying to send by imprisoning him. This was summed up in a cartoon published by the Post, in which Iran’s “opening to the world” was revealed to be “one-way” – symbolized by the doors of a prison in which Western nationals are incarcerated, but which they cannot leave.
The Tower went a step further, pointing the blame not just at the Iranian regime or the hardliners within it, but at Washington itself, which by “dithering” on the issue of US captives in Iran causes their families to be “run ragged by years of campaigning for their loved ones.” Hopefully, Rezaian will come home before his family marks a year and a half of captivity.