Information about Rezaian’s case and his condition was slow to emerge if it ever emerged at all. It was eventually revealed that he was to face trial in Iran’s Revolutionary Court, indicating that he would be charged with crimes related to national security. But the actual nature of those alleged crimes was not revealed until now. It was widely believed that security forces were holding and interrogating him as they worked to build a case from scratch.
In detailing the allegations against Rezaian, Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency predictably phrased the case in terms of the nation’s antagonistic relationship with the West, saying for instance, “Selling Iran’s economic and industrial information at a time of sanctions is exactly like selling food to the enemy at a time of war.”
The article also evoked Iran’s criminalization of activist affiliations, citing Rezaian’s friendships with Iranian journalists and exiled Iranian activists as evidence of wrongdoing. “If this is truly Iran’s justification for Jason’s nine months of detention, all Iranians regardless of their country of residence or political affiliation should be embarrassed by this continued injustice,” wrote Rezaian’s brother Ali in a statement on Sunday.
Numerous prominent individuals and human rights groups have joined Rezaian’s family in urging his release, but the announcement of explicit charges against him suggests that the Iranian regime is no closer to complying. Part of the challenge now falls to his legal defense, which is seriously constrained by Iran’s unfair treatment of its political prisoners.
Agence France-Presse quoted the Washington Post’s Executive Editor Martin Baron as saying that Rezaian has been denied access to legal counsel for nearly all of the nine months of his detention, has still not had a substantive conversation with his eventually-approved lawyer Leila Ahsan and will only be permitted to meet with her once for an hour in preparation for his trial.
The timing of the announcement of these charges may be curious to some, given their proximity to the announcement of a framework nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 on April 2. Some analysts have regarded recent crackdowns and ultra-conservative policy initiatives in the Islamic Republic as evidence of a trend seeking to compensate for the perceived violation of Iran’s revolutionary ideology when it came to the nuclear negotiating table a year and a half ago.
Viewed through this lens, the charges against Rezaian may be intended in part to send the message that Iran’s belligerence toward supposed Western intrusion has not diminished in the wake of what has been regarded by some as a diplomatic breakthrough.