Imprisoned Washington Post Journalist Able to Celebrate Part of Christmas with Family

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(CNN) — Imprisoned Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian got a surprise Christmas gift Friday while being held in an Iranian prison. Rezaian, who has been held captive for more than 500 days by the Iranian government, was able to spend some time with his family at the prison.

“After several efforts, Yegi and I were able to secure permissions from the court to meet with Jason for several hours today, Christmas,” his mother Mary said in an email to the Post. “We had a wonderful time together reminiscing of holidays past,” she wrote.

His brother, Ali, confirmed to CNN Jason’s mother did send that email to the Post and that she and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, “were able to meet and have lunch together. It was the longest meeting Jason’s mother has had with him since she first traveled to Iran last December,” Ali Rezaian told CNN.

His mother’s email also included a message from her son to his colleagues: “Jason is sending his warmest nondenominational Season’s Greetings to everyone at The Post. And wishes for a very happy and productive New Year … He knows you all are working harder than any other entity to secure his release. And the knowledge of that is what hives him strength every day.”

Rezaian, The Washington Post’s bureau chief in Tehran, was detained in Iran in July 2014 and has been incarcerated in Evin prison since then. Last month, an Iranian court sentenced him to prison for an unspecified length after being charged with espionage and other serious infractions, including “collaborating with a hostile government” and “propaganda against the establishment.”

Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said in a statement, “It is a happy occasion for them and for all of us. And yet, we have to note, this visit is a rare exception in the 522 days of tragic, unjust imprisonment of a good, honorable and innocent man … We welcome this act of basic humanity, and we encourage his jailers in Iran to follow up by doing all the justice and decency require: Release Jason from prison and allow him a return to life as a free man who can spend time with his family where and whenever he pleases.”

His brother, Ali, hand-delivered a petition containing more than 500,000 signatures to the Iranian mission in New York earlier this month marking the 500th day. The petition, which was coordinated by Change.org and signed by people from more than 150 countries, calls for Jason’s immediate and unconditional release.