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Family, 'Washington Post' Fight For Jason Rezaian's Release From Iranian Prison


We are tracking several stories on this dramatic day. There is the mass shooting in San Bernardino. Britain has begun bombing targets in Syria. And then there's this milestone - journalist Jason Rezaian of The Washington Post has now been imprisoned in Iran for 500 days. Iranian authorities sentenced him to prison last month. Not much more is known than that. We're joined now by Jason's brother, Ali Rezaian. Welcome back to the program, sir.

ALI REZAIAN: Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: What do you know about Jason Rezaian's condition?

REZAIAN: You know, we know right now he's still being held essentially in isolation, with just one other person. They pretty much ignore him most of the time. He hasn't been interrogated, he hasn't been seeing anybody. They do allow him to see my sister-in-law and my mother. But he's very depressed. He's angry. He is just - doesn't understand why this is all happening and gets very little information.

INSKEEP: He's seen your sister-in-law and your mother, you said.

REZAIAN: Yes, they're able to see him usually once a week, sometimes twice a week, for short periods of time.

INSKEEP: They're staying in Tehran because of this?

REZAIAN: Yes, my mom's been there on-and-off since the beginning of the trial, so almost six months. My sister-in-law is not able to leave the country. That was one of the terms of her bail.

INSKEEP: Do you know anything more than the rest of us do about the evidence against this man?

REZAIAN: Probably a bit. I know that what his attorney has said is that there's no basis in the evidence to support the charges. The - there really is nothing there that anybody that was rational would look at and say, you know, Jason was doing anything wrong against the Islamic Republic.

INSKEEP: Now let me ask you about this, Ali Rezaian. We had Wendy Sherman on the program the other day. She was the lead negotiator of the nuclear deal that was made between Iran and several other countries. And they did not make Jason Rezaian part of the deal, but Wendy Sherman said that on the sidelines - off to the side - she was asking the same Iranian officials repeatedly for Jason Rezaian's release and for the release of other Americans in Iran, by the way. What do you think of U.S. government efforts over the last 500 days to free your brother?

REZAIAN: You know, I think that - I'm sure they did that. I know that the folks that - in the State Department brought it up very frequently. But the people that they're talking to in those negotiations were there to talk about one thing, and one thing only, which was the nuclear deal and getting what they wanted there. They didn't have the authority, they didn't have the power within the country to get Jason out. And it just shows you who we've been working with over there and how difficult it is to work with the Iranians. But, you know, I just don't think that you know that government. You can't really tell what they're going to do. And the people that we know of, we see, are figureheads.

INSKEEP: Are you satisfied that the U.S. government is doing everything it can?

REZAIAN: You know, I think there's always more that everybody can do. You know, I haven't seen any consequences for the Iranians for holding Jason for 500 days illegally. By international standards, by their own laws, he's been held illegally. He should be released, and there haven't been any consequences for them.

INSKEEP: In just about 20 seconds, I want to mention that you're in New York City. You're delivering a petition to the Iranian mission at the United Nations. What's the petition say?

REZAIAN: You know, the petition asks for Jason's immediate release. The United Nations have been great. There's a working group on arbitrary detention that's working this week, and we hope they'll bring out a statement saying that Jason's been held arbitrarily and illegally and that he should be released immediately.

INSKEEP: OK, well, Ali Rezaian, thank you very much - appreciate your time this morning.

REZAIAN: Thank you for having me.

INSKEEP: Ali Rezaian is in New York City. He's talking about his brother, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. Today marks 500 days since he was arrested in Iran. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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