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Verdict issued in Rezaian case, Iranian judiciary says

Iran’s judiciary said on Sunday that a ruling had been issued in the espionage trial of Iranian-American journalist Jason Rezaian, but gave no further details about the case, which has complicated moves to ease hostility between Washington and Tehran.

California-born Rezaian, the Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief, was arrested in July 2014. The final hearing in his trial was on Aug. 10.

“The ruling on this case has been issued. There is still the possibility of this ruling being appealed, and it is not final,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei told a televised news conference in Tehran.

Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said the statement was “vague and puzzling.”

“We have no further information at this time and it is not clear whether this ruling includes a verdict or a sentence – or even whether its contents have been communicated to Jason or his lawyer,” he said.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said Washington was awaiting details: “We’re monitoring the situation closely, and we continue to call for all charges against Jason to be dropped and for him to be immediately released.”

Iran has accused Rezaian, 39, of collecting confidential information and handing it to hostile governments, writing a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and acting against national security.

“SHAM TRIAL”

The Post described the proceedings against its reporter as a “sham trial”.

Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani last month hinted at the possibility of releasing Rezaian in exchange for Iranian prisoners in the United States, but officials have played down the possibility of any such swap.

Rezaian’s brother Ali issued a statement on Friday noting that the journalist had been held in prison for 444 days, the same length of time that American embassy staff were held after the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.

“My brother’s life has been cruelly interrupted, despite his obvious innocence, so that Iran can continue to use him as a political pawn,” Ali Rezaian said.

Hopes were raised in Washington that Rezaian and other Americans held in Iran may be freed after Iran reached agreement with the United States and other major powers in July to curb its nuclear program in return for relief from sanctions.

Their cases have been raised in subsequent talks, including between Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when they met during the U.N. General Assembly in New York last month. No progress was announced.

Two other U.S. citizens are detained in Iran: Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant. Robert Levinson, a private investigator, disappeared in Iran in 2007.

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