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Trial of Iranian-American journalist Jason Rezaian to proceed behind closed doors -

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ELEANOR HALL: The brother of a jailed Iranian-American journalist says he's outraged at the Tehran court's last-minute decision to conduct his brother's trial in a closed court.

The Washington Post's bureau chief in Tehran, Jason Rezaian, was arrested last year along with his wife.

His trial on charges of espionage is due to begin today, but only the journalist and his lawyer will be allowed in the courtroom.

As Thomas Oriti reports.

THOMAS ORITI: It's been 10 months since Jason Rezaian was arrested in his Tehran home, but the reasons why aren't entirely clear.

On the day the Washington bureau chief's trial is due to begin, the paper's foreign editor Douglas Jehl has criticised the Iranian government for its lack of transparency.

DOUGLAS JEHL: Iran has not publicly said what the charges are.

We know what the charges are simply from his lawyer, who has been able to review them and has been able to talk somewhat publicly about them, but they revolve in allegations that what Jason did went beyond his mandate as a journalist, that he gathered information and provided it to foreign governments, including the United States, that he acted in ways that were not part of what he was accredited to do.

THOMAS ORITI: Jason Rezaian was arrested last July along with his wife Yeganeh Salehi, who's also a journalist.

Ms Salehi was released on bail in October last year, and will go on trial separately.

But 39-year-old Jason Rezaian remains behind bars, facing charges of espionage.

In the words of his lawyer, the journalist handed confidential information about domestic and foreign policy to "hostile governments".

Douglas Jehl says his colleague was doing his job.

DOUGLAS JEHL: This is ridiculous, it's ludicrous, what Jason did was act as a journalist, which involves gathering information, verifying information, and ultimately publishing it.

THOMAS ORITI: The executive editor of the Washington Post, Martin Baron, has also released a statement, calling the situation "a shameful act of injustice".

MARTIN BORAN STATEMENT (voiceover): There is no justice in this system, not an ounce of it, and yet the fate of a good, innocent man hangs in the balance.

Iran is making a statement about its values in its disgraceful treatment of our colleague, and it can only horrify the world community.

THOMAS ORITI: Martin Baron says the journalist was taken to Iran's worst prison, placed in isolation for months and denied medical care.

He also claims that Jason Rezaian's case was assigned to a judge who's internationally notorious for human rights violations, and he couldn't select his lawyer.

When the court approved one, he was only allowed to meet with the lawyer for an hour and a half.

The trial date was only revealed last week, and now Mr Rezaian's brother Ali says the family has been told they can't attend.

ALI REZAIAN: What we've just found out within the last few hours is that it's not going to be a public trial, it's going to be a closed trial.

THOMAS ORITI: Ali Rezaian says he's been informed that the trial has been closed to the public due to security reasons.

He's not convinced.

ALI REZAIAN: By having a secret trial, a closed trial, it just shows how scared the Iranians are to show that there's evidence.

I think they're embarrassed by the evidence they have.

They have gone along with this sham for the last 10 months and now they're going to have a trial and they want to keep it as closed as possible, so there is less information for people to say, why have you held this person, he is totally innocent.

THOMAS ORITI: The Washington Post tried to secure a visa that would've allowed a senior editor to travel to Tehran, but the request has gone unanswered.

The paper's foreign editor, Douglas Jehl, says he remains hopeful there'll be a fair trial.

DOUGLAS JEHL: We believe there is no basis whatsoever for the charges against him.

We expect that any court that looked at these charges and gave them a fair hearing would immediately acquit Jason.

THOMAS ORITI: But as the days roll on, Ali Rezaian is growing more concerned about his brother's health.

ALI REZAIAN: You know, how can you be held in isolation for over 10 months without having effects, psychological effects of being ignored for 10 months.

THOMAS ORITI: The Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York, has urged Iranian authorities to drop the charges and release Jason Rezaian.

ELEANOR HALL: Thomas Oriti reporting.