DUBAI (Reuters) - An Iranian court will hold a second hearing next week for Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, an American-Iranian on trial on espionage charges, Iran’s Students News Agency ISNA reported on Wednesday.
The trial of Rezaian, the newspaper’s Iran bureau chief, began behind closed doors on May 26 at a Revolutionary Court in Tehran.
“Jason’s second hearing will be on Monday at branch 15 of the Revolutionary court,” his lawyer Leila Ahsan told ISNA.
Rezaian, a California native, was arrested last July in Tehran at his home. His wife, Yeganeh Salehi, and a woman described as a photojournalist also went on trial, the official IRNA news agency said.
Both women, also American-Iranians, were detained with him but later released. Salehi has been banned from leaving Iran, the Post reported. The first trial session was adjourned after two hours, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The Iranian judiciary has not disclosed details of Rezaian’s charges, but his lawyer has said the charges included “espionage for the hostile government of the United States” and propaganda against the Islamic Republic.
“He has been charged with espionage for collecting confidential information ... and handing it to hostile governments, writing a letter to Obama and acting against national security,” Ahsan told Tasnim news agency after the first hearing.
The Post has said Rezaian faces up to 10 to 20 years in prison and has denounced his case as “absurd”.
Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency said during Rezaian’s first hearing that a translated version of a letter Rezaian had written to U.S. President Barack Obama was read out, in which he wrote: “In Iran, I’m in contact with simple laborers to influential mullahs.”
Rezaian rejected the charges, Mehr reported, saying “My activities were as an accredited journalist in Iran and all were legal.”
Obama, Rezaian’s family, rights groups and the Post have urged Rezaian’s immediate release. Ali Rezaian told Reuters Television last week his brother had lost 40 pounds (18 kg) in prison.
Some critics of the judiciary say his detention is aimed at undermining President Hassan Rouhani’s efforts to improve ties with the West and at harming talks between Iran and major powers to solve a decade-old standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program.
In another trial, the same branch of the Revolutionary court jailed civil rights activist Atena Faraghdani for 12-1/2 years on various charges on June 1, her lawyer was quoted as saying by the U.S.-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on Wednesday.
Her charges include “assembly and collusion against national security” and “acting against national security”, the lawyer, Mohammad Moghimi, said.
“One of the pieces of evidence used against her was her sharing of a cartoon depicting members of the Iranian Parliament as animals on her Facebook page,” he said. Other evidence included “critical writings” on Faraghdani’s Facebook page.
Moghimi said the jail sentence was expected to be reduced to 7.5 years. An Iranian judiciary spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Editing by William Maclean/Jeremy Gaunt