With the actual beginning of the trial, expectations of a secretive process were confirmed as even Rezaian’s mother was barred access to the courtroom. Previously, Mary Rezaian had been permitted to visit her son in Evin Prison on only one occasion, in addition to one four minute telephone conversation.
France24 quotes Rezaian’s brother Ali as saying that this isolation has affected Jason both physically and psychologically. However the family says that he is presently focused on providing the best defense possible in what is expected to be an approximately three day trial.
But the same enforced isolation has affected Rezaian’s legal representation, as well. His family’s first choice of attorney was prevented from accessing his would-be client, and the second choice, Leila Ehsan, was permitted to meet with Rezaian only once to prepare the defense. Nevertheless, Ehsan has seen the case file on her client and she tells the media that it provides no evidence substantiating the charges against her client.
IranWire reports that two charges were formally levelled against Rezaian on Tuesday. One is propaganda against the regime, and the other is the gathering of classified information and making it available to hostile governments.
This latter charge was previously characterized as the gathering and dissemination of information on Iran’s domestic and foreign policies. This led Ali Rezaian to tell NPR News that the basis for the charge against his brother was essentially that Jason had watched the news inside of Iran and talked about it with friends and family in the West.
The case was also reportedly built upon a forced confession obtained in September 2014, approximately two months after the July 22 arrest of Rezaian and his journalist wife Yeganeh Salehi. IranWire points out that the Rezaian case highlights the Iranian regime’s routine use of forced confessions as a “tactic to intimidate and isolate journalists for simply reporting the truth.”
In the specific case of Jason Rezaian, guards reportedly pressured him to confess in order to “influence Iran’s nuclear negotiations with Western powers, including the United States.” The USA Today reiterates this charge, noting that the timing of the trial, about one month before the deadline for an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program, is conspicuous.
It quotes a Poynter Institute document as saying, “A lot of people could see a trial before [the talks end] as a way to get rid of an issue they have with the US and with the media.” The secretive nature of the trial contributes to this latter issue, standing as an example of Iran’s tight control over access to information by and through its own media.