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Iran To Try 'Washington Post' Journalist With Economic Spying


An Iranian-American reporter has spent the last nine months in a prison in Tehran. And now Iran's official news agency reports Jason Rezaian of The Washington Post will be charged with economic espionage. Both The Post and the State Department characterized the charge as absurd and are calling for Rezaian's immediate release. We're joined on the line by journalist and documentary filmmaker Maziar Bahari. He's Iranian-Canadian. His memoir about being jailed by the Iranian regime was the basis for the Jon Stewart film "Rosewater." Welcome.


MONTAGNE: What exactly is Jason Rezaian being charged with?

BAHARI: We don't know. That is the simple answer. A few months ago, one of the conservative members of the parliament said that Jason Rezaian has confessed in a recorded confession saying that he's a spy. And a few days ago, Fars News Agency, which is a news agency close to the Revolutionary Guard, said that Jason Rezaian provided some economic information to the enemy. Whether this economic information was transmitted to the enemy secretly or it was mentioned in an article, it is not obvious. When I was in prison, my interrogator asked me, to you, is there any difference between a journalist and a spy? And he said, well, basically they're both in selling information business, so there is really no difference between a journalist and a spy.

MONTAGNE: What do you make of the timing - coming as Iran and the U.S., along with other world powers, are working towards a final nuclear deal? Is there a connection?

BAHARI: I think it shows the schizophrenic nature of the Iranian regime. We have no solid information whatsoever, but my guess is that the Revolutionary Guard - they are trying to use Jason Rezaian as bargaining chip in their own internal domestic fighting against other factions within the regime and also in the negotiations with the West.

MONTAGNE: Given that Jason Rezaian is American, what might he be facing in jail?

BAHARI: I think in the first few weeks, he was under a lot of pressure in order to confess to something that they wanted him to confess to. That's exactly what happened to me. But at the moment, I think his physical situation is not as bad in many other countries, especially in Evin Prison, where he is. As you saw the film "Rosewater," it is not something that you see in "Zero Dark Thirty." But he's going through a lot of psychological hardships, and there are many interrogations. And my guess is that he's in a solitary confinement, and the worst situation for him is just being in solitary confinement for days and weeks without even seeing his interrogators.

MONTAGNE: Do you see or sense any signs that suggest hope for his release?

BAHARI: I think the fact that they are talking about him is a good sign that they want to do something about his trial. And most probably, they're going to charge them with something first. And then his case is going to an appeal court, and that will be appealed, and it will be reduced. And he will be eventually released, so that is my guess, of course.

MONTAGNE: Maziar Bahari is a journalist and documentary filmmaker. Thank you very much for joining us.

BAHARI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.