The trial against Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian in Iran has begun, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reports Tuesday morning, after he has been detained in Iran for over nine months on charges of “espionage” and “acting against national security.”
The trial is being held in Branch 15 of the Tehran revolutionary court, according to AFP, which usually presides over top-level national security or political cases. Proceedings are being held behind closed doors.
Rezaian and his wife, fellow journalist Yeganeh Salehi, who writes for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) paper The National, were arrested in a surprise raid on July 22, 2014.
Iran confirmed the arrests some three days later, after Tehran General Prosecuter Gholamhossein Esmaili said, “the security forces have the whole country under surveillance and control the activities of enemies. They will not permit our country to become a land where our enemies and their agents carry out their activities.”
The case has gained national attention after the Post’s extensive coverage and in light of the US’s changing relationship with the Islamic Republic.
Iran is one of the 10 worst countries worldwide for freedom of the press, according to Reporters Without Borders’s 2014 World Press Freedom Index. The Islamic Republic ranked 173 out of 180 countries surveyed, outranked in terms of censorship and suppression only by Vietnam, China, Somalia, Syria, Turkmenistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Eritrea.
A different survey by the NGO Freedom House placed Iran at 192nd out of 197 countries ranked by freedom of the press in 2014.