With the his fate now in the hands of an Iranian judge known for handing down harsh sentences, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian is being held as a "human pawn, while the Obama administration takes care not to offend the regime's leader, asserts the paper's editorial board.
"While an American citizen is openly wielded as a human pawn, at enormous cost to his well-being and that of his family, the Obama administration fastidiously refrains from any action it believes might offend Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — from seeking the downfall of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to tolerating a vote in Congress on sanctions that would be imposed in the event the talks failed," reads the editorial.
Rezaian, who holds dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship, and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, an Iranian, were arrested on July 22, 2014, on charges that he carried out espionage activities for the U.S. government, but specific charges, nor a trial date, have not been outlined by Iranian authorities.
Prior to Salehi's release, Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of the Iranian Judiciary’s Human Rights Council, told CNN
that the couple had been "involved in activities which our security people consider [to be] activities definitely beyond journalism," adding, "Their detention is according to the law with the order of the judges."
His case was discussed during a January meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
The couple were arrested with another photojournalist and her husband, but they have been released and in October, Iran released Salehi, a fellow journalist, on bail, according to the Post.
When asked about the Rezaian case during a Sunday press conference in Munich, Zarif said he hoped "will be cleared in a court of law" and that "once the court process is completed, we will have a clear-cut case or we will have his acquittal."
Despite Zarif's positive spin on the fate of Rezaian, the editorial board notes "Mr. Zarif’s words are contradicted — as they have been in the past — by the actual developments in Mr. Rezaian’s case," a reference to the fact that the judge appointed to preside over his case is a "notorious Revolutionary Court judge known for imposing harsh sentences."
According to a statement from Rezaian’s, Judge Abolghassem Salavati was sanctioned in 2011 by the European Union for "gross human rights violations."
While the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reports
Salavati has earned the nickname "the hanging judge" because of the large number of execution sentences he handed down on those who were arrested while peacefully protesting Iran's disputed 2009 presidential elections.
Additionally, he was one of four judges who oversaw many of the cases related to Iran's crackdown on journalists and political activists and whose conduct in those cases was in violation of international treaties to which Tehran is a signatory, The Guardian reported
days after Rezaian was detained in July 2014.
In a Jan. 17 editorial, the Post
appeared to take a stronger stance regarding ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran and even endorsing a proposed Senate bill authored by GOP Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois and New Jersey Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez, which would increase pressure on Iran if no nuclear deal is reached by June 30, when the current agreement ends.
"We gave Mr. Obama’s argument the benefit of the doubt when Congress first considered the legislation more than a year ago. But the president’s logic has been undercut by the manifest willingness of the Iranians to adopt their own pressure tactics — including steps that are considerably more noxious than the threat of future sanctions," they wrote.
At the center of the Post’s argument is that Iran has engaged in its "pressure tactics" to get what it wants out of the nuclear negotiations, so it is disingenuous to assert that Iran should be exempt from increased pressure from the West.
While addressing the Journalist Security Conference at the end of January, Kerry said
that "when journalists are unfairly detained, we always raise this issue in our meetings with foreign officials at every level, and that is true whether the journalist is an American such as Jason Rezaian, who is being held in Iran, or from some other country where the rights of journalists are violated all too often."
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