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Iranian Official Shares Little About Detained U.S. Reporter


We have fresh information this morning on an American who's been detained in Iran. Jason Rezaian is a Tehran-based correspondent for The Washington Post. He was taken into custody in July along with his wife. And his family says they have no information about why this is or where he is. Yesterday we asked Iran's foreign minister about this American. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the issue is Iran's business.

JAVAD ZARIF: Well, Jason Rezaian is also an Iranian citizen.

INSKEEP: Dual citizenship?

ZARIF: Dual citizenship. And if you look at your own passport, it says in your passport that if you have dual citizenship and you go to the country of your origin, then you are subjected to the laws of that country.

INSKEEP: We had a long talk yesterday with Iran's foreign minister in New York. We talked about nuclear negotiations and about ISIS, as we are hearing elsewhere on NPR News. In this part of our talk, we sought information about that Washington Post reporter.

ZARIF: Whatever he has done - and I'm not in a position, nor do I have information to share with you about what his charges are. But whatever he has done he has done as an Iranian citizen, not as an American citizen. And he is facing interrogation in Iran for what he has done as an Iranian citizen.

Now, I hope that all detainees will be released. I believe that it is in the interest of everybody to work for a more positive atmosphere, and that's what I've done in the past several months. But I believe that people have to face justice if they committed crimes. Of course if he didn't commit any crimes as an Iranian citizen, then it is our obligation as the government of Iran to seek his release.

INSKEEP: Just to be clear - with all of its flaws - the United States justice system in most instances requires that if someone is to be held, there must be a charge before very many days have passed. We have a situation here where the government of Iran - using its own rules - has held a man without any explanation for months.

ZARIF: We have no obligation - the judiciary has no obligation - to explain to the United States why it is detaining one of its citizens. His lawyers know; he knows his charge; I'm not supposed to know, but he knows his charge.

Now, let me tell you that there are Iranian citizens who have committed no crime and they are being held in countries in East Asia on pressure from the United States. It's not a crime to violate U.S. sanctions in Malaysia or in Philippines or in Thailand. It's not a crime. U.S. sanctions are only applicable on U.S. territory. If somebody tries to buy night-vision goggles, for instance, in Malaysia, they've not violated any - they've not committed any crimes. One of them died in a jail in Philippines under pressure from the United States for extradition.

I, for one - I know Jason personally as a reporter he has worked with me, and I know him to be a fair reporter. So I had hoped all along that his detention would be short. And I continue to try to make it shorter than longer, but the point that needs to be made is that an Iranian citizen is being held by Iranian authorities on suspicions dealing with Iranian law. And nobody is water boarding him.

INSKEEP: Should other Iranian-Americans, who are accustomed to the U.S. justice system, be concerned about traveling back to Iran as many do...

ZARIF: If they're not committed any crimes - no, no - they shouldn't be.

INSKEEP: But here we have a man who hasn't even been accused of a crime that we know of.

ZARIF: Well, you don't know of him being accused of a crime, it doesn't mean that he wasn't accused of a crime in the proper procedures of the Iranian judicial system.

INSKEEP: That's Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif talking of detained Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian. We hear more of our conversation elsewhere on today's program. We reached out to Rezaian's editor at The Washington Post, by the way, and he sent us a statement saying it is long past time for the Iranian authorities to release Jason Rezaian and his wife. The two have been held for more than eight weeks without explanation or charges, and, quote, "we remain mystified by their detention." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.