Jason Rezaian—the 39-year-old Washington Post reporter held in an Iranian jail for over a year on espionage charges—was reportedly convicted this weekend. He could face as long as 20 years in prison—a definite possibility, according to the Post, which reports the judge is “known for handing down harsh sentences.”
Rezaian, who worked as the Post’s Tehran bureau chief, was arrested on July 22, 2014 and charged with an “unknown crime.”
According to the Post, a later indictment charged him with espionage, “collaborating with hostile governments,” “propaganda against the establishment,” and providing information “about internal and foreign policy” to “individuals with hostile intent.”
But this weekend, he was reportedly convicted on the most serious of the four charges pending against him—the end result of a trial shrouded in secrecy from start to finish in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court.
Even so, some details have emerged. According to the Post, some of the charges stem from “a visit he made to a U.S. consulate regarding a visa for his wife and a letter he wrote seeking a job in the Obama administration in 2008,” the latter of which was apparently the basis for the “hostile government” charge.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also reportedly suggested an American “low-level operative” may have tried to use Rezaian’s wife’s visa application as leverage to convince the reporter to spy on Iran.
“He began to identify individuals and companies that violated sanctions and were cooperating with Iran,” the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network reportedly claims on its website. “The information that Rezaian gave to the Americans had led many Iranian and international businessmen and companies to be included in America’s sanctions list.”
Either way, the country now appears to be setting Rezaian up for a potential prisoner exchange—according to the Times, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has repeatedly suggested swapping Rezaian and three other Americans for the Iranian citizens detained over sanctions violations.