Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, whose imprisonment in Iran made him a global symbol of the fight for press freedom, was freed on Saturday along with three other Iranian-American dual national citizens as part of a prisoner swap. A fifth American was released separate from the deal. In return, the United States agreed to release seven Iranian prisoners it was holding.
Rezaian had been held since July of 2014 on supposed espionage charges which were widely viewed as a sham pretense to extract concessions from the U.S. over the nuclear accord being hammered out between Iran and the wider world. (The prisoner swap came on the same day that the accord was due to be implemented.) Last November, Iran's judiciary sentenced him to an unspecified term in prison after a trial held completely in secret.
After news of the deal was made public, the Huffington Post's Ryan Grim wrote that his outlet, along with the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, had gotten wind of the negotiations that led to the swap as early as last fall, but had held the story so as not to imperil the talks.
CNN's Elise Labott reported that the negotiations had been underway for 14 months.
Journalists at the Post celebrated their colleague's release.
Sherif Mansour, the Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, a leading press freedom group, also hailed the news, while criticizing Rezaian's detention:
"We welcome news of the release of Jason Rezaian, who should never have been imprisoned in the first place. The farce of a judicial process that kept him in custody for 544 days has earned Tehran nothing but scorn from the international community. The Iranian government should begin taking steps immediately to improve its press freedom record by releasing all journalists imprisoned in relation to their work."