A verdict in the case of "Washington Post" journalist Jason Rezaian on charges of spying on Iran could be handed down within a week. Rights groups have called the Iranian-American's immediate release.
In custody for more than a year and tried behind closed doors, 39-year-old Jason Rezaian's fourth - and final - hearing was held on Monday. It was the case's first hearing since Iran signed an agreement on its nuclear program with world powers last month.
Rezaian's lawyer, Leila Ahsan, said there should be a verdict in the case within a week. She added that she expected Rezaian to be acquitted "as he is innocent."
"This was the last hearing and we made the last defense," the Fars news agency and other Iranian media quoted Ahsan as saying.
Rezaian's mother, Mary, was at the court on Monday but not allowed to witness the trial.
"This case is not about what Jason did," she told reporters outside the court. "This is a political case, political issues between the United States and Iran. He is paying the price of the suspicion, the animosity, and the paranoia between the two countries."
In July, Ahsan said she hoped the nuclear agreement would lead to Rezaian's release.
Facing espionage charges
An Iranian judicial official on Sunday, however, said it would be up to the courts to decide when the journalist's case would come to a close.
"The court decides which hearing will be the last one," said Gholam Hossein Esmaili, chief of Tehran's justice department. "Until then one cannot judge about it."
In the trial, which started in May, Rezaian faces charges of espionage, collaboration with hostile governments, gathering classified information and disseminating propaganda against Iran. He faces up to 10 to 20 years in prison if found guilt by Tehran's Revolutionary Court, which typically handles cases dealing with national security.
Rezaian, who hold US and Iranian passports, was arrested along with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, also a journalist, and a photographer in July 2014. Salehi and the photographer were released on bail after two and half a months in custody.
'Sick brew of farce and tragedy'
Reporters Without Borders and other watch-dog groups have called for Rezaian's immediate and unconditional release. US President Obama said last month that his administration is "not going to relent" until Iran frees Rezaian.
"Washington Post" executive editor Martin Baron on Monday called the trial a "sick brew of sham and tragedy," adding that the only aspect of the case that has been clear "is Jason's innocence." Baron also criticized the conditions Rezaian is being held under. The US newspaper has also submitted a petition detailing Rezaian's ill treatment, including long periods of solitary confinement, to the United Nations.
"He has been made to suffer physically and psychologically, and for that there is no excuse," Baron said in a statement on the Post's website. "His arrest, imprisonment, and now this sham trial contradict every standard required for the fair administration of justice, and they violate international law, Iran’s own laws, and fundamental human decency."
sms/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)