EDITOR'S NOTE: This alert was updated at 01:23 p.m. Saturday to reflect U.S. officials confirming Jason Rezaian has been freed.
New York, January 16, 2016--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release today of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who spent 544 days in prison in Iran. Rezaian was freed as part of a prisoner swap deal, according to a report in the Post that said U.S. and Iranian officials had confirmed his release.
"We welcome news of the release of Jason Rezaian, who should never have been imprisoned in the first place," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, from Washington. "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."
Rezaian was arrested in July 2014. On October 12, 2015, Iranian media reported that he had been convicted, according to the Post. The following month, Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, a spokesman for Tehran's Revolutionary Court, confirmed to Iranian media that Rezaian had been sentenced to prison but did not specify the length of the sentence. Charges against Rezaian included espionage, which he denied, according to reports.
The Washington Post correspondent has been held longer than any other international journalist in Iran, according to CPJ research. In July 2015, a year after his arrest, CPJ's board urged Iran's leaders to intervene in Rezaian's case. With 19 journalists behind bars, Iran was the third worst jailer of journalists in the world in 2015, according to CPJ's annual prison census.
UPDATE: The last paragraph of this alert has been updated to reflect that Jason Rezaian has been held longer than any other international journalist in Iran.