You are on page 1of 12

Iran frees Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, 3

others, officials say

Iran has freed
Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, according to Iranian news media. He was
arrested in Iran in 2014 and convicted of espionage last year. Here's what you need to
know about the case against him. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)
Object 1

By Carol Morello, William Branigin and Karen DeYoung-January 16

VIENNA — Iran released Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian and three
other detained Iranian Americans on Saturday in exchange for seven people
imprisoned or charged in the United States, U.S. and Iranian officials said, a swap
linked to the imminent implementation of a landmark nuclear deal between Tehran
and six world powers.
Iranian officials said Rezaian, 39, was freed from Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison
after 18 months of captivity and was to be promptly flown out of the country with
the three other released detainees.
U.S. officials subsequently confirmed the deal but were awaiting confirmation that
a Swiss plane carrying the four has left Tehran. Iran also agreed to let Rezaian’s
wife, Yeganeh Salehi, leave with him on the plane, the officials said.

[ LIVE UPDATES: Reactions to the release of Jason Rezaian, other
Americans ]
Iran’s judiciary announced the release in Tehran as part of an exchange, according
to Iranian news media.
In return, the United States is releasing
seven people charged with violating
sanctions against Iran, U.S. and Iranian
officials said.
U.S. officials said Iran is also freeing a fifth
American, a student detained in Tehran
some months ago, separately from the
exchange.
A Dec. 27, 2011, file photo of a video
frame grab image made from the
Iranian broadcaster IRIB TV shows U.S.
citizen Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, accused
by Iran of spying for the CIA, in
Tehran's revolutionary court, in Iran.
(AP)

A senior administration official, speaking
in Vienna, confirmed the exchange but said
that “our citizens have not yet been flown
out of Iran, and we do not want to do

anything that would complicate it.”
The official said that the “Iranians wanted a goodwill gesture” as part of the release,
and that led to the exchange. The list the Iranians submitted to U.S. authorities was
“whittled down” to exclude any crimes related to violence or terrorism, said the
official, one of several who spoke on condition of anonymity under administration
ground rules..
Another official said that the exchange was a “one-time arrangement because it was
an opportunity to bring Americans home,” and should not be considered something
that would “encourage this behavior in the future” by Iran.

The officials did not tie the release directly to the nuclear talks and said they had
not wanted the detained Americans to be “used as leverage” in the negotiations.
But, they said, completion of the nuclear deal last July greatly accelerated talks
about the prisoners.
Those freed Saturday included Saeed
Abedini, 35, of Boise, Idaho; Amir
Hekmati, 32, of Flint, Mich.; and
Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, U.S. and
Iranian officials said.
Abedini is a Christian pastor who had been
Naghmeh Abedini, holds a necklace
with a photograph of her husband,
Saeed Abedini, on Capitol Hill in
Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2015,
during a House Foreign Affairs
Committee hearing with four people
whose family members were being
held in Iran. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

imprisoned since July 2012 for organizing
home churches. Hekmati is a former
Marine who spent more than four years in
prison on spying charges following his
arrest in August 2011 during a visit to see
his grandmother.

The detention of Khosravi-Roodsari had not been previously publicized. Iranian
state television identified him as a businessman. Little else was known about him.
A senior administration official identified the fifth American as Matthew Trevithick.
“Matthew was a young man studying in Iran” and was “detained in recent months,”
the official said. “We wanted him obviously to be a direct part of this, and made
clear to Iranians that [his release] would be an appropriate humanitarian gesture.”
Trevithick’s family said in a statement that he went to Iran in September for a fourmonth language program only to be arrested and spend 40 days in Evin Prison. A
researcher and author, he previously worked at the American University of

Afghanistan and the American University of Iraq.
[The ordeal of Post reporter Jason Rezaian]
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who represents the district where the Rezaian
family lives, said he was told by the White House that the Americans would be
aboard a Swiss plane that would take them briefly to Switzerland and that they
would not return home until they have “medical checkups,” most likely at a U.S.
military medical facility in Germany.
“We’re all very excited that hopefully within a matter of days we’ll be able to

welcome them back to the United States,” Huffman said.
In a statement in Tehran, Prosecutor Abbas Jaafari said that “based on an approval
of the Supreme National Security Council and the general interests of the Islamic
Republic, four Iranian prisoners with dual nationality were freed today within the
framework of a prisoner swap deal,” the semiofficial Fars News Agency reported.
The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, quoting Jaafari, said the agreement
also includes a provision under which the United States will no longer pursue the
extradition of 14 Iranians alleged to have been involved in trafficking arms to Iran.
In Washington, the State Department said clemency has been offered to seven
Iranians, six of whom are dual U.S.-Iranian citizens, who had been convicted or
were awaiting trial in the United States. “The United States also removed any
Interpol red notices and dismissed any charges against 14 Iranians for whom it was
assessed that extradition requests were unlikely to be successful,” the department
said.
News of the reported exchange came as world leaders converged Saturday in
Vienna in anticipation of the end of international sanctions against Iran in return

for significantly curtailing its nuclear program.
The nuclear agreement will take effect when the International Atomic Energy
Agency certifies that Iran has met its commitments under the deal it signed last
July with six global powers, including the United States.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry flew from London to Vienna in the early afternoon
local time. He went immediately into a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister
Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Coburg Palace Hotel, the scene of months-long final
negotiations last summer that led to the deal between Iran and the world powers.

Iranian news media reported that in connection with steps to implement the nuclear deal, President Obama
lifted a decades-old ban on the sale of U.S. civilian aircraft and parts to Iran. A U.S. official said the move is
among the steps that the nuclear agreement requires the United States to take on the day the accord is
implemented.

Not included in the prisoner exchange was Siamak Namazi, a Dubai-based oil
company executive who had promoted closer U.S.-Iranian ties, Iranian officials
said. He was arrested in October while visiting a friend in Tehran. In addition, the
fate of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in March 2007 during a
visit to Iran’s Kish Island, remains unknown.
Namazi remains incarcerated because “his charges are financial, and not political,”
Fars said.
Asked about Namazi and Levinson, U.S. officials in Vienna said that talks were
continuing on their fate.
“Iran has also committed to continue cooperating with the United States to

determine the whereabouts of Robert Levinson,” a U.S. official in Washington said.

Fars named seven Iranians it said were being exchanged by the United States in the
deal: Nader Modanlou, Bahram Mechanic, Khosrow Afqahi, Arash Ghahreman,
Touraj Faridi, Nima Golestaneh and Ali Sabounchi.
Golestaneh, 30, pleaded guilty last month to cyber-hacking a U.S. defense firm in
October 2012. He was arrested in Turkey in November 2013 and extradited to the
United States in February 2015, the Justice Department said.
Notably absent from the list was Manssor Arbabsiar, an Iranian American from
Texas who pleaded guilty in 2012 to plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to
Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, who is now Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister. Arbabsiar
was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Joel Androphy, a lawyer for three of the Iranians to be freed by U.S. authorities,
said the Iranian Embassy told him that his three clients, who have been charged
with sanctions violations but have not yet gone to trial, have been issued a pardon
by President Obama. The administration had no immediate comment.

Kris Coratti, vice president of communications and spokeswoman for The Post, said that “while we are
hopeful, we have not received any official word of Jason’s release.”

The exchange quickly became political fodder in the United States among
Republicans vying for the GOP presidential nomination.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump said it was “a total disgrace” that the
release of the Americans took so long. “This should have been done three, four
years ago, when the [nuclear] deal was struck. Before the deal was made .  .  . they
should have said, we want our prisoners back,” Trump said at a rally in New
Hampshire.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in a television interview Saturday: “We’d be
very happy for the families of the Americans who are going to be home and for
those Americans, but I’d also want to hear what the other side of the deal is, if this
president is releasing more terrorists from Guantanamo to go back and reenter the
war on terror. . . . We shouldn’t have to swap prisoners. These folks were taken
illegally in violation of international law and they should have been released
without condition.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told reporters while campaigning in Iowa: “The fact of
the matter is that this tells us everything we need to know about the Iranian regime.
That they take people hostage in order to gain concessions. And the fact that they
can get away with it with this administration I think has created an incentive for
more governments to do this around the world.”
Huffman, the Rezaians’ congressman, called the remarks “shameful.” He told The
Post that Republican candidates “would have said the same things” no matter what
the circumstances. “There are some critics of the administration that just can’t
acknowledge anything good that comes from this administration.”
Rezaian’s ordeal damaged his health, drew protests from media and human rights
groups and hampered efforts to improve relations between Washington and
Tehran. It also exposed fault lines and infighting in Iran’s opaque political system,
where Rezaian and other detained Americans appeared to become pawns in a larger
internal struggle between hard-liners and reformists seeking to improve ties with
the West.
Kerry frequently raised the plight of Rezaian and other imprisoned U.S. citizens
during last year’s nuclear negotiations, but their release was not part of
the resulting agreement between Iran and the six world powers: the United States,
Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

[Post coverage of Americans detained in Iran]
Rezaian was tried last year behind closed doors on vague charges of espionage and
other alleged offenses and was sentenced to an unspecified prison term.
The Americans’ release came as the International Atomic Energy Agency prepared
to certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, triggering steps to lift U.N.
sanctions against the country and return an estimated $50 billion in frozen Iranian
funds. (Tens of billions more in frozen funds are to be used to pay Iranian debts.)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has hailed the nuclear accord’s “Implementation
Day” and its promise of sanctions relief as heralding a “year of economic
prosperity” for Iran and fulfillment of his campaign promises when he was elected
in 2013.
Rezaian’s 2014 arrest and his subsequent trial and conviction in Iran’s secretive
Revolutionary Court system — on charges that were never publicly disclosed or
substantiated — appeared to reflect a power play by hard-liners fiercely loyal to
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, against more moderate reformist
elements under Rouhani. The hard-liners control Iran’s security forces, intelligence
apparatus, judiciary and most other levers of power, while Rouhani — though
answerable to Khamenei — has been given relatively free rein to manage Iran’s
foreign affairs and improve its economy.
Although major differences between Tehran and Washington persist, tensions
eased somewhat after the nuclear deal was reached in July. It imposed restrictions
on Iran’s nuclear program, aimed at forestalling any attempt to build nuclear
weapons, in return for the lifting of international economic sanctions on Iran and
the release of frozen Iranian funds from banks worldwide, mostly in Asia.
Iran in recent weeks took significant steps to meet its obligations under the deal in

anticipation of securing sanctions relief and regaining access to its impounded
cash. Such tangible benefits from the nuclear accord, which was opposed by hardliners, could help moderates in Iran’s legislative elections at the end of February.
Increased U.S.-Iranian cooperation appeared to be on display Wednesday
when Iran released 10 U.S. sailors within a day after they were seized by Iranian
Revolutionary Guard naval forces in the Persian Gulf. The Americans were on two
small riverine boats that strayed into Iranian waters.
Against this backdrop, the signs of rapprochement raised hopes for a resolution in
Rezaian’s case.
For the first time, the Revolutionary Court allowed his mother, Mary Rezaian, and
his Iranian wife, Salehi, to visit him in Evin Prison for an extended period on
Christmas Day. In an email to The Washington Post, Mary Rezaian said the
meeting lasted “several hours” and that she was able to bring her son “his first
home-cooked meal in months.”
Dec. 3 marked the Post correspondent’s 500th day in captivity — longer than 52
Americans were held during the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis and by far the
lengthiest detention of a Western journalist by Tehran.
[The Post petitions U.N. to help free Jason Rezaian]
Ahead of that milestone, The Post filed a supplementary petition with the U.N.
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, amplifying a filing in July that accused Iran
of flagrant human rights violations during Rezaian’s “unlawful” detention and
called for his immediate release.
The additional petition cited the journalist’s “declining health,” saying he continued
to lose weight and suffer from blood pressure complications and other undertreated

physical and mental conditions. It said he was subjected to “further interrogations,
psychological abuse, and physical mistreatment” and was “forced to wear a hood”
when being escorted around the prison by guards or interrogators.
Born in Marin County, Calif., to an Iranian emigre father and an American mother,
Rezaian moved to Iran in 2008 and worked as a journalist for publications
including the San Francisco Chronicle. He joined The Post in 2012 and wrote
stories that he hoped would give readers a deeper and more nuanced view of Iran;
one of his last recounted the travails of the country’sfledgling baseball team.
Rezaian was arrested along with his wife when security forces raided their home on
July 22, 2014. Salehi, 31, a journalist who worked for the Abu Dhabi newspaper, the
National, was released on bail in October, but Rezaian languished in Evin Prison for
months without trial or even specific charges.
In December 2014, Rezaian was officially charged with publicly unspecified
offenses, and prosecutors announced a month later that he would be tried in
Revolutionary Court. The case was assigned to Abolghassem Salavati, a hard-line
judge known for imposing draconian sentences — including long prison terms,
lashings and execution — on political prisoners and detainees deemed a threat to
national security. Salavati has been under European Union sanctions since 2011.
Rezaian’s attorney, Leila Ahsan, disclosed last April that an indictment she was
allowed to read charged Rezaian with espionage and three other serious crimes,
including “collaborating with hostile governments” and “propaganda against the
establishment.” Rezaian was also accused of gathering information “about internal
and foreign policy” and providing it to “individuals with hostile intent.”
The charges carried a maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison, Ahsan said.
Rezaian and The Post vigorously denied the accusations.

When he went on trial in May last year, the court 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.
[Imprisonment took “devastating toll” on Post reporter]
Rezaian holds both U.S. and Iranian citizenship. But Iran, which does not recognize
dual nationality, barred any U.S. role in the case, including consular visits by Swiss
diplomats representing U.S. interests. Diplomatic relations between Washington
and Tehran were severed in 1980 during the Iranian hostage crisis.
The last of four Revolutionary Court sessions was held in August, but it was not
until October that a court spokesman announced a conviction — without providing
any details. In November, the court said Rezaian was sentenced to a prison term,
again with no elaboration.
In the meantime, Iranian officials floated the idea of a prisoner swap with the
United States. President Rouhani even suggested that Tehran could free Rezaian
and at least two other Iranian American prisoners if Washington reciprocated by
releasing 19 Iranian citizens convicted in the United States of circumventing
sanctions.
As if to buttress that proposal, state-run news media in Iran then reported that
Rezaian was accused of “spying on Iran’s nuclear programs” and giving the U.S.
government information on people and companies evading sanctions.
The prisoner-swap maneuvering showed that, for Iran, Rezaian’s innocence was
“immaterial” and that what mattered more was whether he could be used to extract
political concessions from the United States, The Post argued in its latest

submission to the U.N. Working Group in late November.
“The Iranian Government’s indiscriminate, baseless, and constantly evolving

theories and allegations — which continue to change even after the conclusion of
his trial — provide yet further evidence that Rezaian has committed no crime and is
entitled to immediate release and some form of compensation for his wrongful
imprisonment,” it said.
Branigin and DeYoung reported from Washington. Ellen Nakashima and Karen
DeYoung in Washington contributed to this report.
Posted by Thavam