Saberi sentenced to 8 years in prison

Alexandra Finkel

Iranian authorities have convicted Northwestern alumna Roxana Saberi of espionage and sentenced her to eight years in prison, according to international news sources.

Saberi, Medill ’99, stood trial in Iran’s Revolutionary Court last Monday after being charged last week with spying for the United States. The freelance journalist has worked in Iran since 2003 and, although her press credentials were revoked in 2006, she continued to file stories for various news outlets including BBC, NPR and Fox News.

In late January, Saberi was arrested and detained outside Tehran in Evin jail. Political prisoners are often jailed at Evin and at least two journalists have died there in the last six years, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Saberi initially told her parents she was arrested for buying wine, although she was later accused of reporting without press credentials and then espionage. According to Iran’s Press TV, she had previously admitted to the espionage charges.

“Roxana said in court that her earlier confessions were not true and she told me she had been tricked into believing that she would be released if she cooperated,” her father, Reza Saberi, told the Agence France-Presse on Saturday.

Saberi’s lawyer, Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, said the verdict would be appealed.

President Barack Obama told news sources this weekend that he was dismayed by the situation and called for her release.

The Medill Undergraduate Student Advisory Council is planning a rally Thursday in support of Saberi. Saberi’s sentencing Saturday inspired MUSAC member Shari Weiss to take action.

“That was the first time the story became real to me,” the Medill senior said. “I didn’t have a huge interest before then because it didn’t seem like she wouldn’t come home soon, but the jail sentence drove home the seriousness of it.”

Journalists must take steps to draw attention to Saberi’s cause, said Weiss, a student member of The Daily’s publishing board.

“We knew a rally wouldn’t have an impact internationally, but it will get the attention of our lawmakers,” she said. “We, as journalists, need to realize that it could be any one of us.”

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