Iran has belatedly sentenced Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian to prison, it was disclosed Sunday, but it was unclear whether Iran is open to a prisoner swap with the Obama administration.
The length of the sentence was not publicly disclosed, if indeed there is a specific one.
“Serving a jail term is in Jason Rezaian’s sentence but I cannot give details,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said during a weekly presser in Tehran, according to the Iranian news service IRNA.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters he was aware of the IRNA report but could not independently confirm it. It was not immediately clear why there are few other details of the ruling against the 39-year-old Rezaian, who Iranian prosecutors accused of espionage.
Douglas Jehl, foreign editor of The Washington Post, said Sunday, “We’re aware of the reports in the Iranian media, but have no further information at this time. Every day that Jason is in prison is an injustice. He has done nothing wrong. Even after keeping Jason in prison 488 days so far, Iran has produced no evidence of wrongdoing. His trial and sentence are a sham, and he should be released immediately.”
Rezaian was arrested last year and held on vague espionage charges, which the Obama administration, the United Nations and media groups have ridiculed. A secret trial was held with not even his family allowed to attend. On Oct. 11 it was declared that he had been convicted and had 20 days to appeal.
There have been multiple theories over the past year as to how the case would be resolved, but most have proven flat wrong. They’ve included the notion that he would be released as part of the international nuclear negotiations with Iran or during September’s convening of world leaders at the UN General Assembly.
Hooman Majd, a New York-based Iran expert and a contributor to NBC News and Vanity Fair, said Sunday that the lack of clarity about the sentence might be revealing and still point to a desire among some in the faction-ridden Iranian government to figure out a swap of prisoners held in each country.
“They also said it’s not ‘finalized,’ which means to me they still are looking at a swap…and justifying the imprisonment by later saying sentence amounted to ‘time served,'” Majd said.