Four Journalists, Three Americans Detained

July 25, 2014

           Three American journalists, including The Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, have reportedly been detained in Tehran. Gholam-Hossein Esmaili, director general of the Tehran Province Justice Department, confirmed July 25 that “The Washington Post journalist has been detained for some questions and after technical investigations, the judiciary will provide details on the issue.” Rezaian is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen. Rezaian’s Iranian wife, Yaganeh Salehi, a correspondent for the Emirates-based paper The National, was also reportedly detained along with an American freelance photojournalist and his wife, who not have been named by officials.

           On July 29, the State Department called for the release of Rezaian. “We call on the Iranian government to immediately release Mr. Rezaian and the other three individuals. We continue to monitor the situation closely,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

           Also on July 29, Iranian authorities released the photographer's wife. But no further information was released regarding the status of the three journalists. Rezaian's mother released the following video clip calling for the release of her son and daughter-in-law.

            Salehi's family was allowed to visit the couple on September 7, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. An informed source said that Salehi and Rezaian had lost a “shocking” amount of weight and that they were “very worried about their state of limbo in prison.”         
             Thirty-five other journalists of Iranian origin are also detained or imprisoned in Iran, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
            The latest move follows an earlier wave of arrests of Iranian Americans under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In 2007, Iranian American scholar Haleh Esfandiari was accused of taking part in anti-government activities. During a family visit to Iran, authorities placed her under virtual house arrest for four months and then held her in solitary confinement for another four months. In 2009, Iranian American journalist Roxanna Saberi was detained for five months, allegedly due to expired press credentials. At least two Iranian-Americans remain in custody in Iran from the Ahmadinejad years. One American, who is not of Iranian origin, is also missing, according to the Congressional Research Service.  
• Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, remains missing after a visit in 2005 to Kish Island to meet an Iranian source. Iran denies knowing his status or location. In December 2011, Levinson’s family released a one-year old taped statement by him. In January 2013, his family released recent photos of him, and they acknowledged in late 2013 that his visit to Kish Island was partly related to his contract work for the CIA.
• A former U.S. Marine, Amir Hekmati, was arrested in 2011 and remains in jail in Iran allegedly for spying for the United States. His family has been permitted to visit him there.
• On Dec. 20, 2012, a U.S. Christian convert of Iranian origin, Rev. Saeed Abedini, was imprisoned for “undermining national security” for setting up orphanages in Iran in partnership with Iranian Christians. His closed trial was held Jan. 22, 2013, and he was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison.
            The latest U.N. Human Rights Council report, released in March, noted that at least 895 prisoners of conscience and political prisoners were imprisoned in Iran. The number included 379 political activists, 292 religious practitioners, 92 human rights defenders (including 50 ethnic rights activists), 71 civic activists, 37 journalists and netizens, and 24 student activists.
            Since May, authorities have targeted several journalists for charges such as “propaganda against the state” and “disrupting public order through participation in gatherings.” The following are examples of recent arrests outlined by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
• On July 7, cultural reporter Marzieh Rasouli tweeted that she will report to Evin Prison today to begin serving a two-year prison sentence on charges of "propaganda against the regime" and "disrupting public order through participation in gatherings," according to news reports. She was originally arrested in January 2012.
• On June 28, 2014, Iranian journalist and CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee Mashallah Shamsolvaezin wrote on his Facebook page that he had been charged with "propaganda against the state" related to his interviews with media and speeches he gave at two regional and international journalism conferences. He said he was released on bail of 2 billion riyals (approximately US$80,000).
• On June 21, 2014, Reihaneh Tabatabei, a journalist who worked for Shargh and Bahar, was summoned to Evin Prison to begin serving a six-month prison sentence for prior charges related to "publishing news about the Green Movement," according to reports.
• On June 20, 2014, critical blogger Mehdi Khazali was arrested while on a trip to the north of Iran, according to news reports. Reports said the arrest could be in connection with a critical blog post Khazali wrote that accused Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani of corruption and embezzlement. Kani is the head of the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body charged with electing the Supreme Leader. It is not clear if Khazali has been charged.
• On June 19, 2014, the Kerman province prosecutor announced that 11 staff members of Pat Shargh Govashir, a company that owns the popular Iranian technology news website Narenji and its sister sites, Nardebaan and Negahbaan, had been sentenced to between one and 11 years in prison on charges of receiving training from and producing content for the BBC, according to news reports.
• On June 7, 2014, Iranian documentary filmmaker Mahnaz Mohammadi reported to Evin Prison to begin serving a five-year prison sentence, according to news reports. The government charged Mohammadi with propaganda and collusion against the state, claiming she was cooperating with the BBC, but she denied ever working with the channel, the reports said.
• On May 28, 2014, Saba Azarpeik, a reformist journalist with the weekly Tejarat-e Farda and daily Etemad, was arrested at the Tejarat-e Farda offices, according to news reports. Azarpeik, who was arrested previously in 2013, has often written critically of conservative officials and human rights abuses in the country, the reports said.
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