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Iranian-American journalist held in Iran charged with espionage

Jason Rezaian was detained nine months ago and faces four charges including collaborating with a 'hostile government'
Iranian-American Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian and his Iranian wife Yeganeh Salehi in Tehran (AFP)

Iranian authorities charged American Iranian journalist Jason Rezaian with espionage and three other crimes, his lawyer told the Washington Post on Monday.

The Post reporter, who was arrested nine months ago and sent to Tehran’s Elvin Prison, has also been charged with collaborating with hostile governments, propaganda against the establishment, and collecting classified information, his lawyer Leila Ahsan told the Washington Post.

Iranian authorities allege Rezaian wrote to US President Barack Obama, considered by the courts as proof of his contact with a “hostile government”.

The Revolutionary Court has yet to officially reveal the charges against the 39-year-old who was born to an Iranian father and American mother in San Francisco. They are only known by the brief description given by Ahmsan after she met Rezaian on Monday for 90 minutes.

“All the items and accusations are the ones that I mentioned and I cannot divulge details because the trial has not yet begun,” Ahsan said in a statement to the Post.

“Jason is a journalist, and it in the nature of his profession to gain access to information and publish it. My client, however, has never had any direct or indirect access to classified information to share with anyone,” added Ahsan.

She said Rezaian’s charges are connected to his coverage of Iran as a journalist.

It was the first time Reziain has been allowed to consult with a lawyer since his arrest on 22 July.

In a statement released on the newspaper's website, executive editor Martin Baron described the charges against Rezaian as “scurrilous.”

"The grave charges against Jason that Iran has now disclosed could not be more ludicrous. It is absurd and despicable to assert, as Iran's judiciary is now claiming, that Jason's work first as a freelance reporter and then as The Post's Tehran correspondent amounted to espionage or otherwise posed any threat to Iranian national security," said Baron.

Rezaian’s wife, Yeganeh Salehi, an Iranian journalist, was also arrested with along with her husband but eventually released on bail. She is now living with her parents, awaiting the release of her husband.

Rezaian’s mother Mary and brother Ali have made continuous pleas to the Iranian government on behalf of Rezaiain for his speedy release.

The White House and the State Department have both criticised Iran for the case.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said: "If the reports are true, these charges are absurd, should be immediately dismissed and Jason should be freed immediately, so that he can return home to his family,” reported the Post.

During nuclear talks with Iran that spanned over the past few months, US Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly mentioned Rezaian, along with two other Americans of Iranian descent imprisoned there.

While the Revolutionary Court has not set a trial date for Resaian's case, his family believes it may be soon.

The Post reported that the case's judge, Abolghassem Salavti, is known for his severe sentences.

"Repeated requests for bail and end to the detention order against Jason have been rejected by the court thus far," Ahsan said.

"Considering that the investigation has ended, I believe there is no legal precedent for extending Jason's detention."

The charges against Rezaian carry a maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison, the Post reported.