Journalist released from Iranian prison attended high school in Wheaton

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Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter who was released from an Iranian prison, has Chicago connections. (WLS)

Jason Rezaian, one of four U.S. citizens released from prison in Iran this weekend, spent most of his childhood in California, except for a couple high school years in west suburban Wheaton.

Rezaian, a 39-year-old Washington Post reporter, never lost touch with some of his close friends in the Chicago area. On Sunday, they said they were thrilled to hear that he has been released. Rezaian landed in Germany on Sunday after 545 days in an Iranian prison.

"He is free to be a journalist again! I know that is really important," said friend Matt Brandseth, who attended Wheaton Central High school with Rezaian in the 1990s.

When Rezaian's work took him overseas, the high school buddies kept in touch through email and social media.

"He is just a jolly guy, happy guy, and a joy to be around. He's got a mission to bring Iranian and American people together to shed away any misunderstanding," Brandseth said.

After Rezaian and his wife were taken prisoner in Iran, Brandseth, of Naperville, wanted to do something to keep his friend's name in the press. To do that, he had Rezaian's friends from around the world make video-selfies to say what they love about him.

"People from different facets of his life pulled together and support of him, I can't wait to show him the video," said Brandseth.

Rezaian and 2 other Americans were released after diplomatic nuclear negotiations with Iran. On Sunday, President Barack Obama called Rezaian a courageous journalist.

"He embodies the brave spirit that gives life to the freedom of the press," Obama said.

In Germany, Rezaian will spend a few days getting checked at a hospital because he lost so much weight in what are being described as harsh prison conditions.

Brandseth said his friend is a huge Star Wars fan, and he is excited Rezaian will get to see the new movie in a theaters.
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