Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who is California born and holds dual citizenship in the United States and Iran, was convicted by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court of spying. In the New Yorker, Amy Davidson once reported: “His writing about Iran had been marked by cultural generosity and care.” In June I posted:
Recently my wife and I were watching an old episode of CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown in which, after years of trying, he managed to gain entry into Iran.
… At one point Bourdain conducted a lengthy interview with an Iran-American journalist for the Washington Post and his Iranian wife. They were both clearly in love with Iran. Wait, I thought, is that…? Yes, as Bourdain explained in a postscript at the end of the show, Jason Rezaian had since been arrested, along with his wife.
He was arrested why exactly? Today, in an extensive account, the Washington Post reports:
The trial proceedings indicated that some of the claims against Rezaian stemmed from a visit he made to a U.S. consulate regarding a visa for his wife and a letter he wrote seeking a job in the Obama administration in 2008 — material that was apparently taken from his confiscated laptop.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison.
In April, in the New York Times, Rick Gladstone speculated:
Iran has many laws that are written so vaguely they can be applied to almost any situation, and it remains possible that Mr. Rezaian did, intentionally or not, violate some aspect of Iran’s legal code simply by gathering information — doing his job as a journalist.
Funny — ha-ha — how security forces in repressive countries behave like the type of parent or significant other, around whom you have to walk on eggshells lest they lash out at you for reasons you struggle to understand. Continuing to paraphrase from my previous post, this even extends to the U.S. government with its vendettas against whistleblowers. Ms. Davidson wrote:
Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister and the lead nuclear negotiator, who dealt with Rezaian as a reporter before his arrest, said in April that he hoped “my friend Jason” would be acquitted, but he also insinuated that American intelligence might have “tried to take advantage” of Rezaian.
You want to have sympathy for Zarif forced to acknowledge hard-liners in Iran attempting to gain some leverage over moderate President Hassan Rouhani, whose profile has been enhanced by the Iran nuclear deal. But Rezaian is the one paying the price. The Washington Post again:
With hard-liners, championed by Khamenei as the country’s overall religious and political leader, firmly in control of key levers of power, the case served to underscore the relative impotence of the Rouhani government in judicial and national security matters.
Jason Rezaian’s only crime was loving his country too much to leave before he became a target.