WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The heads of 25 news outlets have signed a letter asking U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to urge Iran to free an American Washington Post reporter held for more than 500 days.
Iran has detained Jason Rezaian since July 2014. Rezaian's wife and two photojournalists were also arrested but later released, and Rezaian, who holds duel Iranian and U.S. citizenship, was last month handed an unspecified prison term for charges relating to espionage -- which his colleagues at the Post characterized as "baseless allegations."
"Journalism is not a crime," the letter reads. "Yet Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian has been imprisoned by Iran since July 2014 for doing his job. Iran has never offered any evidence that even makes a pretense of justifying this imprisonment."
"We know you agree that Iran should release Jason and on behalf of our organizations and journalists around the world, we are writing to urge you to maintain your efforts to forge a path to that release," the letter went on to say.
Editors, producers and presidents of The New York Times, NPR, VICE News, PBS NewsHour, POLITICO, the Washington Post and other journalism organizations were among the signatories.
Government officials have reportedly raised Rezaian's case with Iran during negotiations over its nuclear capabilities, but critics of the talks say the Obama administration should have done more to facilitate his release and that of three other U.S. citizens being held by the Islamic Republic.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said Kerry received the letter and will "respond as appropriate."
"As we have said repeatedly, we believe that our citizens should be returned to the United States to be with their families as soon as they possibly can," CNN quoted Kirby as saying. "As Secretary Kerry has noted many times, we are working very hard to get our citizens back home, and we call again on Iran to release them."