Washington Post foreign correspondent Jason Rezaian, confirmed Saturday to be among four U.S. prisoners released by Iran, was a most unlikely example of a political propagandist, as his captors claimed.
Rezaian, who grew up in Northern California, is a dual Iran-U.S. citizen. In July 2014, he was detained with his wife, who was released on bail, while Rezaian was held for trial in an Iranian prison almost 18 months. He was convicted last month of espionage in a closed-door trial.
“We couldn’t be happier to hear the news that Jason Rezaian has been released from Evin Prison,” Post publisher Frederick Ryan, Jr. said in a statement.
Michelle May, a psychologist and friend of Rezaian’s, told USA TODAY on Saturday that she was “over the moon to learn of this.” She was hoping to gather other friends of Rezaian’s at a bar in Marin County, Calif., this weekend to watch the story of his release unfold.
While he was ultimately convicted of espionage and other offenses in December, it was long unclear why Rezaian was held. Soon after his capture, Rezaian’s brother Ali said in a statement that, “Jason was simply a journalist doing his job and following all the rules.”
Rezaian’s charges also included collaboration with hostile governments, gathering classified information and spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic.
“He was one of the strongest advocates for people who want a relationship between our two countries,” said May, whose first reaction after learning of his arrest was, “Are you kidding me?”
“I thought it has to be people who don’t want diplomacy between our two countries, who are benefiting from us being estranged,” she said.
After the secret trial, he was sentenced to prison for an undisclosed term. In December, he was allowed a visit from his mother, Mary Rezaian, and wife, Yeganeh Salehi, for Christmas in Iran’s Evin Prison
Washington Post editors repeatedly denied the accusations against their reporter and called for his release.
One of Rezaian’s last projects before he was arrested was an interview lunch with celebrity travel journalist Anthony Bourdain in June 2014.
Source: USA Today | Jayne O’Donnell