PHOTO: Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian and his wife, The National reporter Yeganeh Salehi



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Iran has set a trial date of May 26 for Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent who has spent 10 months in prison with almost no access to a lawyer or information about his case.

Rezaian, who is a dual Iranian-American national, will appear before a Revolutionary Court along with Yeganeh Salehi, his wife and a correspondent for The National who was arrested with him in a July 22 raid. She was bailed from prison in October. A freelancer photographer who was arrested with them is also being tried.

Rezaian is accused of “espionage for the hostile government of the United States of America and propaganda activities against the system,” judiciary spokesman Mahmoud Razavian told the State news agency IRNA.

The Revolutionary Court is noted for his handling of case which are purportedly about national security, drug smuggling, and espionage. After the disputed 2009 presidential election, it held a series of show trials of more than 250 journalists, human rights advocates, opposition politicians, and protesters with forced confessions and long prison sentences.

The presiding judge in Rezaian’s case, Abolghassem Salavati, is known as the “Judge of Death” for his tough sentences and imposition of at least a half-dozen death penalties after the 2009 protests. The European Union included him on a 2011 blacklist of Iranian officials accused of human rights violations.

Rezaian was not told of the charges until recently, and his family was denied its choice of lawyer. The reporter finally had a brief meeting with a court-appointed attorney last month.

The attorney, Leila Ahsan — who also was named to represent Salehi — said on Tuesday that she had learned of the trial date through the Iranian media. She said she would ask for the trial to be open but did “not expect that to be the case”.

Rezaian has been based in Iran since 2008. He became the Post’s Tehran correspondent in 2014.

Asked about Rezaian’s case in late April, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, “We do not jail people for their opinions.”

Iran Shifts Position — Cargo Ship With Aid for Yemen to be Inspected in Djibouti

Shifting its position, Iran has said that a cargo ship with aid for Yemen will not land in the country but will go to Djibouti in east Africa for inspection.

Tehran declared earlier this month that the Nejat — which it said was loaded with food, medical supplies, and tents — would defy a Saudi and US blockade, imposed amid Yemen’s civil war between the Iranian-supported Ansar Allah (Houthi) movement and its opponents. It said the ship would be accompanied by a destroyer and logistics ship of Iran’s 34th Flotilla.

The US and its allies accuse Iran of sending weapons and military equipment to Ansar Allah. Saudi Arabia has also imposed a blockade on Iranian flights into Yemen.

See Iran Daily, May 13: Will Tehran Challenge US and Saudi Arabia With War Over “Aid” to Yemen?

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Wednesday that the Nejat will now go to Djibouti, where it can be inspected by personnel coordinating UN aid for Yemenis.

Amir-Abdollahian issued the statement after a meeting between Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Valerie Amos, the head of UN humanitarian operations.

Zarif proposed “green zones” inside Yemen, including ports and airports, to allow safe delivery of assistance.

Supreme Leader: No Inspection of Military Sites Under Nuclear Agreement

The Supreme Leader has repeated that Iran will not allow unrestricted inspection of its military sites under a comprehensive nuclear agreement.

Addressing a graduation ceremony of military cadets on Wednesday, said “foreign agents” would not be given access and added:

They demand to be permitted to interview our nuclear scientists; this means interrogation. I will not allow any foreigners to speak with the nation’s respected scientists.

While Western officials have warned that “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program must be considered, the issue has not been high on the agenda of Tehran’s talks with the 5+1 Powers for a comprehensive agreement by June 30. However, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, elevated the issue last week when he insisted that the IAEA must have access at any time to Iran’s military sites.

Ayatollah Khamenei also continued his challenge to the US and its allies over regional issues:

They must be aware…that, in case of any misconduct, Iran’s response will be extremely harsh….

Iran is well-respected among just and independent states; isolated are those countries which rely on the dollar and oppression to pull some people to their own side.

Government to “Face Reality” and Reduce Support Payments, Blames Ahmadinejad for Problems

The Rouhani Government has indicated that it will reduce support payments to Iranians, introduced by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he cut subsidies in December 2010.

Labor Minister Ali Rabaei wrote in an open letter about the reduction of the individual monthly payments of 455,000 rials (about $15): “We should face reality. Reforming the current allowance payment system is a major step toward increased social justice.”

Since President Rouhani entered office in August 2013, the Government has proposed limiting the payments — which all Iranians can claim — to those on lower incomes, but has not been able to implement changes. Only 2.4 million of Iran’s population of almost 80 million have opted out.

Rabaei blamed the level of support payments for problems with domestic production and investment: “Since 2010, 500,000 people have lost their jobs in development projects. This is the result of raiding development funds in order to pay cash allowances.”

Rouhani’s senior advisor has said Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, has said the Government faces a one-third shortfall in the $19.5 billion for support payments each year.

“We will have to eliminate a great number of people” from the payment list, he added.

Economy minister Ali Tayebnia said on Monday said the national debt is about $88 billion but added, “No one knows the exact figure.”

He blamed the Ahmadinejad Presidency from 2005 to 2013 for the situation: “[It] had $800 billion in oil revenue and gained $52 billion…from selling assets. But all we have inherited is large debts.”

Regime Extends Prison Sentence of Influential Reformist Politician Tajzadeh

Possibly fearing his influence if he was released as scheduled from prison, the Iranian regime has extended the sentence of prominent reformist political Mostafa Tajzadeh.

Tajzadeh’s six-year term, imposed after the disputed 2009 Presidential election, ended on Monday. However, Tajzadeh’s wife Fakhrosadat Mohtashamipour wrote on Facebook that the former Deputy Interior Minister will have to endure another year of solitary confinement.

Tajzadeh has been outspoken in criticism of the regime despite his isolation, writing on several occasions to the Supreme Leader. The Revolutionary Guards filed charges of propaganda against the regime in response, leading to a sentence — imposed in absentia in a closed court — of another year in prison.

See Iran Feature: Detained Reformist Leader Tajzadeh Writes the Supreme Leader

Foreign Minister Zarif Questioned by MPs About Nuclear Talks

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has faced questions from MPs about Iran’s nuclear talks with the 5+1 Powers, seeking a comprehensive agreement by June 30.

Zarif attended a session of Parliament’s National Security Commission on Tuesday, also addressing issues such as border security and foreign nationals — notably Afghans — in Iran.

Press TV says 10 MPs continue to object to Zarif’s position, citing the refusal to release a fact sheet about an April 2 nuclear framework with the 5+1 and alleged weakness before the US and its allies.

Zarif will attend an open session of Parliament to answer further questions.

Iran’s lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, said negotiations on the drafting of a final agreement will resume in Vienna on Wednesday.