Tags: Iran | Middle East | War on Terrorism | jailed | journalist | Rezaian | Iran

NYT: Jailed Journalist Seen as Pawn Amid Iran-US Tensions

By    |   Wednesday, 27 May 2015 06:45 PM

The fate of jailed journalist Jason Rezaian may be more tied to political tensions and calculations in the strained relations between Iran and the United States than the spy charges the Washington Post reporter faces at his trial in Tehran, The New York Times reports.

In the case of the 39-year-old native Californian with dual citizenship in both Iran and the United States, the Post and the U.S. government have slammed the spy charges as "absurd," and Rezaian's defense lawyer says there's no evidence to support the prosecution.

His closed trial was adjourned after a few hours Tuesday without an announced resumption date, the Times reports.

But the proceedings come just weeks before a final deadline for agreement in nuclear talks with Iran. And though Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wants that deal, he's got adversaries who see the agreement as a threat and who may view the Rezaian case as leverage, the Times reports.

"If there is a conviction in the Rezaian case and no leniency, it can create a crisis in the nuclear talks, yet another complication," Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council in Washington, tells the Times.

Advocates for American prisoners in Iran have said they believe Iranian authorities would swap Iranians held in the United States for the American inmates in Iran. Last month, Amir Hekmati, the longest-held American prisoner in Iran, accused Iran of "serial hostage taking" and of harassing his relatives to press for prisoner exchanges, the Times reports.

American officials deny any prisoner exchanges have taken place or that any are planned.

For their part, Iranian officials have complained about the detention of 12 to 15 Iranian nationals they say are held by the United States for violating anti-Iran economic sanctions — trade and financial restrictions the authorities in Tehran consider illegal. But they have never publicly presented a list of Iranians they want released, the Times reports.

A former diplomat who's been involved in negotiations to free Americans held in Iran, tells the Times it's possible Iranians don't want to resolve the prisoner issue because it's part of a negotiating strategy.

"They may want to keep the talking point," the source said, because "once they have that issue resolved, there’s nothing else for them to say."

Critics of Iran's legal system tell the Times Rezaian will be released only when he's no longer useful to his captors.

"I still don’t know why I was arrested and why I was released," American journalist Roxana Saberi tells The Times. The Al Jazeera staffer was arrested Jan. 31, 2009, and released 100 days later — after she'd been convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison.

Saberi believes Iranian officials were taken by surprise over the international outcry over her case. "I think it was starting to look pretty bad for them," she tells the Times.

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The fate of jailed journalist Jason Rezaian may be more tied to political tensions and calculations in the strained relations between Iran and the United States than the spy charges the Washington Post reporter faces at his trial in Tehran, The New York Times reports.
jailed, journalist, Rezaian, Iran, US, relations, pawn, NY Times
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Wednesday, 27 May 2015 06:45 PM
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