Saberi awaits verdict of Iranian court

Alexandra Finkel

Northwestern alumna Roxana Saberi stood trial in Iran’s Revolutionary Court on Monday, according to an Iranian judiciary official who told the Islamic Society of North America news agency Tuesday.

Although Saberi has been detained outside of Tehran for the past three months, the freelance reporter was charged with espionage just last week. Saberi has been working in Iran since 2003, and even though her press credentials were revoked in 2006, she had continued to openly report and file stories for various news outlets.

“She is charged with spying for foreigners,” said the judiciary official, Alireza Jamshidi. “The first session of the trial was held yesterday, and she defended herself for the last time.”

Saberi was tried in a closed single-session trial, said Laura Tischler, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department.

Sentencing has begun and a verdict is expected within the next three weeks, she said.

“It’s a difficult situation because we don’t have an embassy in Iran,” Tischler said. “We’ve been working with the Swiss Protection Power to verify developments.”

Saberi’s lawyer, Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, told the Associated Press on Monday that he was not authorized to discuss the case until it has concluded.

The consistent lack of transparency by the Iranian authorities has been a challenge, Tischler said.

“Any charge by the Iranian government is baseless,” she said. “We urge Iran to release Roxana Saberi and allow her to return home with her family.”

Many organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, have been paying close attention to the developments in the case, said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator.

“The swiftness of the trial is somewhat troubling,” Dayem said. “But we don’t want to jump the gun. The fact that it was a one day trial is not necessarily a bad thing.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is currently working with Iranian diplomats for help, Tischler said.

“We are committed to securing Roxana’s release,” she said.

Although the CPJ remains relatively uninformed about Saberi’s current situation, Dayem said he is still optimistic.

“If they have a case against her, we’ve yet to see any evidence,” he said. “But we remain hopeful that she will be okay.”

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