American journalist, Roxana Saberi, has been convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran. This 31-year-old American-born woman of Iranian-Japanese descent, was tried on Monday secretly, behind closed doors. Her sentence is said to be “the harshest sentence meted out by an Iranian court to a dual-national on security charges.” Dual-citizenship status is not recognized in Iran.
Ms. Saberi’s father, Reza Saberi, traveled to Iran from his home in Fargo, ND to be with his daughter for the trial, said to held by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court. Mr. Saberi was not allowed in the courtroom. He says his daughter confessed to spying for the United States after being told that a confession would guarantee her release. She recanted the confession once she got to court for her one-day trial that puts her in an Iranian prison for the next eight years. Her father reports that she is physically very weak, but wants to begin a hunger strike to draw international attention to her case.
Saberi was a freelance journalist for National Public Radio (NPR) and the BBC, as well as other media. She has lived in Iran for six years. Charges for her arrest in January 2009 have ranged from buying a bottle of wine to attempting to overthrow the Iranian Islamic regime. She has Iranian counsel who plans to appeal. Mr. Saberi says the attorney was not allowed to enter a request for bail for Roxana. Her dual-citizenship will not do much for her
Saberi grew up in Fargo. She is the former Miss North Dakota 1997 and holds Masters Degrees in Journalism and International Relations. Reporters Without Borders said Iran’s espionage charge is an attempt to “tighten the muzzle on free expression.” Iran denied it and said it “respects freedom of speech based on Islamic rules.”