A Washington Post journalist detained in Iran for nine months is being charged with espionage and three other serious crimes, his lawyer in Tehran said Monday.
Jason Rezaian, the paper’s Tehran bureau chief, also faces charges of "conducting propaganda against the establishment," "collaborating with hostile governments" and "collecting information about internal and foreign policy and providing them to individuals with malicious intent," according to the Post.
He was charged with collaboration with a hostile government because he wrote to President Obama, the indictment alleges.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison.
The family of the imprisoned told the paper about the indictment after speaking to his Iran attorney Leilah Ahsan.
The Post, U.S. officials and Rezaian’s mother have issued appeals for his release.
Post executive editor Martin Baron called the charges against his reporter “ludicrous.”
"After nearly nine months of indefensible silence, Iran’s courts have finally shed light on their supposed case,” Baron said in a statement.
"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.
"Jason is an accredited journalist whose fairness and professionalism have earned him public praise even from Iran’s president and Iran’s foreign minister. Whatever its motive, Iran’s judiciary is presenting the claims that are transparently baseless.
"If there is any hint of light in Iran’s levying of these chilling charges, it is that Iran’s accusations against Jason will soon be heard in the court of public opinion and also in a court of law, albeit in a Revolutionary Court before a judge whose unfairness has already earned him sanctions from the European Community for violations of human rights."
The Post said Ahsan met Rezaian on Monday for 90 minutes in the presence of an official translator.
It was his first meeting with a lawyer since his arrest on July 22. He is being held in Iran’s notorious Evin Prsion for political prisoners.
“All of the items and accusations are the ones that I mentioned and I cannot divulge details because the trial has not yet begun,” the lawyer said, according to the Post.
The charges against Rezaian follow reports by in the Iranian media reporting that the reporter would be charged with espionage. The reports came from sources regarded as close to Iran’s hard-liners.
The Post reported that Ahsan sought Rezaian’s release on bail, only to be rejected.
During nuclear talks with Iran, Secretary of State John Kerry broached the topic of Rezaian’s detention as well as that of two other Americans in Iranania custody.
The paper said Ahsan alluded to those nuke talks in her statement.
“Even though legal affairs are outside the bounds of politics, I hope the nuclear talks and its developments will have a positive effect on a speedy release of my client,” she said.