The Obama administration is facing mounting pressure to use its leverage in the Iranian nuclear talks to demand the release of Americans imprisoned there -- as Tehran proceeds with charges critics say are unfair and unjust.
The latest case involves Washington Post Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian, whom the newspaper revealed Monday is being charged by Iran with espionage and other alleged crimes.
He had been arrested, along with his wife, in 2014. His wife was later released, but he has been detained at the notorious Evin Prison. The charges reported on Monday marked the first time they have been publicly described -- and the information only came from his lawyers, not from the court itself. A State Department official, asked Monday about the report, could not confirm the charges but said, if true, they are "patently absurd."
"He should immediately be freed so he can return to his family. The charges should immediately be dismissed," spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
The development comes after new details surfaced about the prison conditions endured by a former U.S. Marine held in Iran. It was the case of that ex-Marine -- Amir Hekmati, who was arrested in August 2011 on allegations of spying for the CIA while visiting his grandmother and other relatives in Iran -- that prompted the latest high-profile plea to the administration.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars on Friday called for Hekmati's release to be a part of the nuclear talks.