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'Washington Post' Urges U.N. To Help Free Reporter Held In Iran

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Today, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian begins his second year behind bars. He's being held in prison in Iran, charged with espionage and other crimes. Rezaian was born in California. He has both Iranian and American citizenship. Now The Washington Post has appealed to the United Nations requesting urgent action to secure Rezaian's release. And the Post's editor, Martin Baron, joins me to talk about this case. Welcome to the program.

MARTIN BARON: Thank you for having me.

BLOCK: And what have you learned most recently about the conditions under which Jason is being held?

BARON: Well, the conditions are largely the same as they have been for the past year. He's being held in the worst prison in Iran. He is in the middle of a so-called trial, what I would consider sham trial. There've been three hearings. It looks like the trial is coming to a conclusion. And we're waiting to find out what happens at that point. But his life, obviously, has been completely upended. And his health has deteriorated under these kinds of conditions. And we obviously think he needs to be freed.

BLOCK: Your paper's petition to the UN today says that Jason Rezaian's detention appears to have been used as leverage by a certain faction of the Iranian government - in other words, leverage in their nuclear talks with the United States. But a nuclear deal was struck with apparently no movement to free Jason or for that matter, any of the other Americans who are being held by Iran. Does this leave you even more fearful that he will not be released?

BARON: The U.S. government has told us all along that these were discussions that were taking place on separate tracks and that a nuclear court might be handled and would be handled, in fact, separately from Jason's situation and the condition of other Americans who are held in Iran. We didn't necessarily expect that this would be part of an agreement. Of course, we hoped that these discussions that were taking place side-by-side would conclude simultaneously and that Jason would be released when a nuclear deal was reached. But that proved not to be the case, and the Iranians have not been clear at all about what the future holds for him.

BLOCK: In the year that Jason Rezaian has been in captivity, what is The Washington Post doing to support the family?

BARON: Well, Jason is on our payroll and has been on our payroll for the past year. We have been entirely supportive of his brother, Ali, who has campaigned continuously for Jason's release. We have of course paid for lawyers to represent us and represent Jason. We are paying for his legal representation as well.

BLOCK: Are you satisfied with the U.S. government's efforts on Jason's behalf?

BARON: Well, the U.S. government has been telling us from the very beginning that they're pressing very hard for his release, that they've engaged in continuous discussions with the Iranians. We believe that's the case. We would like the administration to work even harder for his release, and we think there's a lot more work to be done.

BLOCK: When you say you want them to work even harder, what more would you have them do?

BARON: Well, I'm not entirely sure. We don't know exactly what has taken place in those negotiations. We have not been privy to them, but we believe that the administration can press the Iranians even further and that they should. And we believe that the international community should get involved, and that's why we've now taken this new step of filing a petition with the United Nations.

BLOCK: Martin Baron, thank you for talking with us.

BARON: Thank you.

BLOCK: Martin Baron is the editor of The Washington Post. Their reporter Jason Rezaian has been imprisoned in Iran for 365 days. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.