Jason Rezaian’s Life in Iranian Prison Is ‘Ever More Difficult’

Jason Rezaian

JUNE 25, 2015 – The New York Times – By RICK GLADSTONE – Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter incarcerated in Iran for nearly a year, is finding prison life “ever more difficult” and has only recently become aware of the global support for him, including a plea for his release from Muhammad Ali, Mr. Rezaian’s mother, Mary, said on Thursday.

In a telephone interview, she also said that Mr. Rezaian, a California native with dual citizenship whom the Iranian authorities have charged with espionage and other crimes, had asked that she come to Tehran for the summer, an indication that he expects his legal battle to be extended for some time.
Mr. Rezaian, 39, has declared his innocence, and his supporters have called the case a political farce.
He is one of at least three Americans imprisoned in Iran, an issue that has taken on increased importance as the international negotiations on Iran’s nuclear activities head toward a diplomatic conclusion, possibly as early as next week. Relatives of the longest-held American, Amir Hekmati, 31, said Wednesday they would be traveling in the coming days to Vienna, where the negotiations are underway, to press their public entreaties for his release.
Mrs. Rezaian had been visiting Tehran since before her son’s trial began last month but returned to her home in Istanbul on June 10. She said she was now planning to return to Tehran next week and “stay indefinitely.”
Even though she has been barred from the trial, held at a Tehran Revolutionary Court, she said that Mr. Rezaian considered her presence in the country an important influence that could at least expedite the prosecution, which has proceeded at an extraordinarily slow pace.
In brief telephone conversations with her son and the three prison visits she has been allowed, Mrs. Rezaian said, he told her, “Things happen when you’re in town.”
Two hearings have been held in Mr. Rezaian’s trial, but the next session has yet to be scheduled. Mrs. Rezaian, who spoke by telephone from Istanbul, said her son’s Iranian lawyer did not expect a notice of the next hearing date until early July because of the Ramadan holiday.
Asked how her son was coping in prison, she said, “He tells me it’s getting harder and harder; it’s becoming ever more difficult.”
“I think he’s only now beginning to realize the amount of external awareness and support being directed to him,” she said. “For example, when I saw him a month ago, he asked me, ‘Is it true that Muhammad Ali spoke up on my behalf?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ ”
In a statement released through the National Press Club in Washington on March 12, Mr. Ali said, “It is my great hope that the government and judiciary of Iran will end the prolonged detention of journalist Jason Rezaian and provide him with access to all his legal options.”
Mr. Ali, an iconic athletic figure admired throughout the world, called Mr. Rezaian “a man of peace and great faith, a man whose dedication and respect for the Iranian people is evident in his work.”
Mr. Rezaian apparently had learned of the former heavyweight champion’s plea for his release from officials in Tehran’s Evin Prison, Mrs. Rezaian said.
The United States government, The Washington Post and a range of news media advocacy and human rights groups have called on the Iranian authorities to free Mr. Rezaian, whose arrest in July has cast an unflattering light on the country’s judicial process. The Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, has described the prosecution as Kafkaesque.
Iranian officials declined for months to specify the nature of the charges against Mr. Rezaian. They held him in solitary confinement for long periods and denied him access to legal counsel until shortly before his trial was set to begin. He has had health problems, and relatives have said that he has lost 40 pounds.
His lawyer, Leila Ahsan, has said prosecutors had presented no evidence to support the charges against him, for which he faces a possible prison term of 20 years.
Mrs. Rezaian said she would continue to seek access to the trial, even though Iranian officials have called it a security case that is closed to the public.
“We knew the trial would have to start before there would be an end to it,” she said. “We have no idea how many sessions this trial will take. It seems to be going quite slowly.”
A version of this article appears in print on June 26, 2015, on page A3 of the New York edition with the headline: American’s Life in Iranian Prison Is ‘Ever More Difficult’ . Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

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