A lawyer chosen to represent a Washington Post correspondent detained in Iran has been unable to complete formalities to defend him, the reporter's brother said Wednesday as he appealed to the judiciary and the country's top leader to examine the case.
Iranian-American Jason Rezaian was detained in Tehran on July 22 along with his Iranian wife, reporter Yeganeh Salehi, and two photojournalists. Rezaian, who was born and spent most of his life in the United States, is the only one of the four still behind bars.
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Charges against him have not been made public, and his family says he has never had access to a lawyer. A judiciary official last month said he expected a trial to begin soon in Iran's Revolutionary Court, which mostly hears cases involving security offenses.
American officials repeatedly have raised concerns about Rezaian and other Americans jailed in Iran, which does not recognize dual nationalities for its citizens.
His brother, Ali Rezaian, told The Associated Press by phone from California that the family has asked defense attorney Masoud Shafiei to represent the journalist, but that he has been prevented from dropping off paperwork Rezaian must sign to formally enlist his services on three consecutive days this week.
Until Rezaian provides his signature, the lawyer cannot officially represent Rezaian or request access to his case file and any alleged evidence against him.
So far, authorities have not released any evidence against the journalist.
"I would urge the head of the judiciary as well as the supreme leader to have people take a look at this case and to realize all of the absurd things that have happened here, and to have it addressed," Ali Rezaian said.
The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has the final say on all Iranian matters of state.
"It's beyond comprehension they would hold someone for seven months without making any direct claims about what they had done or showing any evidence to give a reasonable person a belief that he should even be held, let alone convicted," the brother added.
Shafiei has experience with sensitive cases, previously having represented three American hikers who were arrested by Iran in July 2009 along the Iraq-Iran border. They were later were accused of spying.
One of the hikers, Sarah Shourd, was released after more than 13 months in custody after mediation by the Arab nation of Oman. Her travel companions, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, were later convicted as spies but then set free a year after Shourd's release.
Shafiei could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
The Washington Post's executive editor, Martin Baron, called it "outrageous that the Iranian court is blocking a well-regarded lawyer chosen by Jason's family from gaining access to him" in an emailed statement.
"He should be permitted to meet at once with his lawyer. Iran's handling of this case bears no resemblance to justice; it has been a sham and a tragic farce," he said.
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