Iran begins closed-door trial of Washington Post reporter

The report did not provide further details, but initial hearings in Iran usually see the prosecutor spell out charges

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An Iranian security court on Tuesday held the first hearing in the closed trial of an Iranian-American reporter for The Washington Post who has been detained for more than 10 months, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Correspondent Jason Rezaian, 39, is being tried in a Revolutionary Court on allegations of "espionage for the hostile government of the United States" and propaganda against the Islamic Republic, it reported.

The report did not provide further details, but initial hearings in Iran usually see the prosecutor spell out charges. The Post has said Rezaian faces up to 10 to 20 years in prison.

Rezaian, his wife Yeganeh Salehi and two photojournalists were detained on July 22 in Tehran. All were later released except Rezaian, who was born and spent most of his life in the United States, and who holds both American and Iranian citizenship. Iran does not recognize other nationalities for its citizens.

U.S. officials repeatedly have pressed Iran to release Rezaian and other jailed Americans, including during talks on the sidelines of negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program. Iran and world powers hope to reach a comprehensive agreement on the program by the end of June.

Salehi, wearing a traditional black Islamic veil, refused to talk to waiting reporters as she left the courthouse after the hearing. She looked upset and covered her face with the scarf as she departed in a yellow taxi, sitting in the back seat next to an older woman.

Last week, Rezaian's lawyer said Salehi, who is a reporter for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, and a freelance photographer who worked for foreign media, also will stand trial. The photographer's name has not been made public.

The Washington Post has criticized Rezaian's detention and the handling of the case.

The newspaper said his mother, Mary, would not be allowed to attend the trial despite spending the past two weeks in Iran. Salehi also would be barred and will be tried separately, the Post said, adding that its requests for a visa for a senior editor to travel to Iran went unanswered.

"There is no justice in this system, not an ounce of it, and yet the fate of a good, innocent man hangs in the balance," Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said in a statement. "Iran is making a statement about its values in its disgraceful treatment of our colleague, and it can only horrify the world community."

The judge assigned to hear Rezaian's case, Abolghassem Salavati, is known for his tough sentencing. He has presided over numerous politically sensitive cases, including those of protesters arrested in connection with demonstrations that followed the 2009 presidential elections.

IRNA said Rezaian's hearing ended after a few hours, and that Salavati would decide on the date of the next one, without providing further details.

Rezaian's lawyer, Leila Ahsan, could not immediately be reached for comment.

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