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Reporter Jason Rezaian Being Held On 'Accusations,' Brother Says


Jason Rezaian has been held in a prison in Iran for nine months now. He's an Iranian-American journalist, a correspondent for The Washington Post. And just recently, his family learned the serious charges against him - espionage, propaganda against the establishment, collaborating with hostile governments. His brother, Ali, has been pressing for Jason's release and joins me now from Novato, Calif. Welcome to the program. Thanks for taking time.

ALI REZAIAN: Thanks for talking with me.

BLOCK: What was your reaction, Ali, when you first heard the charges that your brother is facing? They carry a maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison.

REZAIAN: Yeah. You know, I think when we first heard about the charges, you know, clearly, we are shocked. Jason hasn't done anything wrong. He never had access to any kinds of private information or secret information. The idea that he was doing anything other than being a journalist and living a normal life in Iran is just absurd.

BLOCK: I want to play a little tape for you. Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is in the States right now. He was asked to about your brother's case today in New York. This is an interview with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. And here's some of what Foreign Minister Zarif had to say.


JAVAD ZARIF: Unfortunately, your friend and my friend, Jason, is accused of a very serious offense. And I hope that he's cleared in a court, but he will have to face a court.

BLOCK: Javad Zarif also eluded in that interview to what he called overzealous low-level operatives trying to take advantage of your brother. He mentioned people trying to get visas to the United States, making illegal dangerous demands, damaging, he said, to the professionalism of a journalist. Do you have any idea what he's talking about?

REZAIAN: You know, I don't. I mean, Jason was in the process of getting his wife a visa. And so he was in contact with folks at the consulate in the UAE. As a journalist, he spoke with different folks, people in the U.S. government, people in Iran, as well as other journalists. If they're making a claim that those people are somehow going after Iran or trying to get information, then they should talk to those people and not Jason.

BLOCK: How are you getting information about your brother - about the conditions that he's in, how he's doing?

REZAIAN: We don't know a lot about the conditions right now. We've heard in the past some things from a variety of different sources. We are fortunate that Jason's able to see his wife occasionally and is able to talk to her. You know, in terms of general things about Evin Prison and those kinds of things, we don't have any information there.

BLOCK: Evin Prison is the prison where he's being held.

REZAIAN: Yes, it's a large prison in northern Tehran. Jason's being held in the isolation ward, essentially in solitary confinement. And, you know, Jason's a really outgoing person. It's really very difficult for him to be that isolated.

BLOCK: Are you satisfied, Ali, with your communication with the U.S. government on any efforts they're making on your brother's behalf and what they're telling you about that?

REZAIAN: Well, you know, we know that they're in communication with the Iranians about Jason's situation. Do I want there to be more done? Of course. I mean, you know, I'm Jason's brother, and I know that he's innocent. I know he hasn't done anything. And, you know, we've been talking for a long time about wanting to have the Iranian government tell us what the charges are. That took six months. Tell us what evidence they have - as Minister Zarif said, they have accusations. But they've been holding him with accusations on a temporary detention order for nine months. There's so many problems with the way they've held Jason based on their own set of laws. It's just unbelievable.

BLOCK: Well, Ali Rezaian, thanks very much for talking with us today.

REZAIAN: Thank you very much for having me, Melissa.

BLOCK: Ali Rezaian is the brother of Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post correspondent who's been held in prison in Iran for the past nine months. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.