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Trial ends for U.S. journalist held in Iran on spying charges

TEHRAN, Iran -- The final hearing for a Washington Post reporter detained in Iran more than a year ago and charged with espionage ended on Monday, with a verdict expected in the coming days in a trial that has been condemned by the newspaper and press freedom groups.

The fourth closed-door hearing in the trial of Jason Rezaian ended after a few hours devoted to his defense. Rezaian was tried by a Revolutionary Court, which hears sensitive cases, including those related to national security.

The 39-year-old journalist was born and spent most of his life in the United States, and holds American and Iranian citizenship. Iran does not recognize dual nationalities for its citizens.

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His lawyer, Leila Ahsan, told The Associated Press after the hearing that she expects a verdict "in a week." The trial began in May.

Rezaian's mother, Mary, who was outside the court with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, told reporters her son was innocent, a victim of the hostility between Iran and the United States dating back to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"He is paying the price of the suspicion, the animosity and the paranoia between the two countries," she said.

Rezaian, Salehi, and two photojournalists were detained on July 22, 2014, in Tehran. All were later released except Rezaian, who according to the Post faces up to 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted on charges that include espionage and distributing propaganda against the Islamic Republic.

The Post, the U.S. government and press freedom organizations have criticized the charges and his long detention in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison.

The Post's executive editor, Martin Baron, said the court has provided no official word of when it might announce a verdict and "it remains unclear even to Jason's lawyer what might happen next."

"The process has been anything but transparent and just, and that pattern persists. The only thing that is clear is Jason's innocence," Baron said in a statement.

"Now is the time for Iran's senior leaders to end this 'judicial process,' with its sick brew of farce and tragedy," he added. "Jason and his wife ... deserve to be exonerated and to be given back their freedom and lives."

Salehi, a journalist for The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, reportedly has been banned from leaving Iran.

U.S. officials have pressed for the release of Rezaian and other Americans detained in Iran, but their cases were not included in a landmark nuclear deal reached with Tehran last month.

Rezaian's mother objected to his long detention and the repeated delays of the trial. She called on authorities to release details about the charges her son faces and the tapes from the trial itself, "so that the Iranian people and the American people can see if Jason really did harm to Iran or not."

She said her son was lonely and exhausted.

"He is very tired. He is very isolated. They do not have him with other people that he can speak with (in) the same languages, English, Farsi, and so he is very isolated," she said.

Ahsan, the lawyer, last week told the AP that she has prepared a comprehensive written defense brief and planned to speak in court "to prove that Rezaian is innocent." She did not elaborate.

Under Iran's penal code, Rezaian should have been allowed out of detention in July, by the first anniversary of his arrest, she said.

The Post last month filed a petition with the United Nations Human Rights Council's Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions that is aimed at pressuring Iran to release Rezaian.

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