Wednesday, April 8, 2009

UPDATE: Iran Charges American Woman With Spying and Treason

Roxana has been in Iran for 6 years. Iran is continuing with their nuclear program and the U.S. and Europe are trying to convince Iran to stop. Iran has thumbed their nose at everyone in the process and they have used every technique available to buy them more time. The Iranian nuclear program has reached a critical point where it must be stopped. If the U.S. and Europe won't stop it, Israel probably will. The timing of this is not coincidental. It's a diversion, plain and simple.

April 8, 2009

BEIRUT -- Iran's judiciary charged Roxana Saberi, a 31-year-old American freelance journalist, with espionage on Wednesday after detaining her in prison for more than two months.

The charge was outlined on state television Wednesday evening by the Revolutionary Court judge in charge of the prosecution of Ms. Saberi, who was arrested Jan. 31.

Judge Sohrab Heydarifard said that Ms. Saberi had been collecting interviews and documents from government circles under the cover of a reporter, sometimes working without an Iranian government press card, and then transferring the information to American intelligence services.

"This has been uncovered by the counterespionage section of the Information Ministry, and she has thus been arrested. She will stand trial in the course of the following week," said Mr. Heydarifard.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was deeply concerned by the reported charge against Ms. Saberi and demanded her immediate release.

According to Iranian judiciary officials, Ms. Saberi has admitted to the charge against her. However, her lawyer, Abdulsamad Khoramshahi, said that she is innocent and has been wrongly accused.

"My first goal is to get her out on bail as soon as possible and then prove to the court that she must be acquitted on all charges," said Mr. Khoramshahi in a telephone interview from her home in Tehran.

Allegations against Ms. Saberi have fluctuated since her arrest. Iranian authorities first said Ms. Saberi had broken the law by purchasing a bottle of wine. Then they said she was working without a valid press card, although working without such a permit isn't a crime under Iranian law. They said initially that she would be released within weeks, and then that it might take months or years.

"We are very concerned for Roxana and for her safety. There is a serious lack of information in her case. What is the evidence against her?" said Mohamad Abdel Dayem, the Middle East director for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Espionage is an extremely serious crime in Iran's penal code, and cases go to trial in the Revolutionary Court, a separate court system that also deals with such high-level crimes as treason and drug trafficking.

A senior public prosecutor in Tehran said that if Ms. Saberi were convicted of spying, she would face between three and 10 years in prison. If the court found her guilty of spying with intent to overthrow the government, she could face execution.

Over the past two months, as Ms. Saberi's case has received global attention, with petitions circling on the Internet for her immediate release, the U.S. Congress has lobbied on her behalf and Ms. Clinton said last week that the U.S. had sent Iran an official letter asking for her release. Iran denies receiving such a letter.

Ms. Saberi's case could complicate recent diplomatic gestures between Iran and the U.S., aimed at thawing ties severed in 1979. President Barack Obama has said he is ready to negotiate with Iran to try to resolve their differences. Tehran has said it too is willing to negotiate if it sees real policy change from the U.S.

Some analysts in Iran say that Ms. Saberi's case has taken a political tone and that she might be used as leverage to secure the release of three Iranian nationals arrested in Iraq in a U.S. military raid in 2007. The three Iranians are accused by the U.S. of spying for Iran's Revolutionary Guards but so far haven't been formally charged.

Ms. Saberi was born to an Iranian father and a Japanese mother in the U.S. and grew up in Fargo, N.D. She was an accomplished student, star athlete and a beauty queen who was crowned Miss North Dakota in 1997.

She moved to Iran six years ago to work as a freelance journalist and did broadcast and print stints for the BBC, National Public Radio, CBS and other media organizations. Two years ago, her press card was revoked, but she continued to work on personal projects, conducting interviews for a book on Iran.

Colleagues and friends in Iran say that she was mild-mannered and careful in her reportage and they were shocked to hear of her arrest. Ms. Saberi's parents flew to Tehran last week and met with their daughter in jail on Monday, according to her attorney. She was in better spirits, eating and exercising and was allowed to watch television and read books.

Her parents have appealed for her release to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, who is the only person in Iran possessing the power to pardon prisoners.
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1 comment:

  1. In no way, shape or form is this right. The Islamic leadership is simply pretending to conduct a civilized 'trial', while gaining what they crave...attention. I feel for this beauriful, smart lady. Jails in any country are not fun places to be in, and in these totalitarian countries, it's probably hell on earth. Hope the khomeni chap comes to his senses and releases her immediately.