Iranian Court Sentences Roxana Saberi to 8 Years For Spying

By Chris Ariens 

After a five-day trial held behind closed doors, an Iranian court has sentenced Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, to eight years in prison. The former Miss North Dakota, who’d been working in Iran as a freelance reporter, was convicted of spying for the United States.

31-year-old Saberi has reported for NPR, “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer”, and Fox News Channel, among others as the Tehran bureau chief for Feature Story News. Her press credentials were revoked in 2006.

The Obama administration has called the charges against Saberi baseless and is demanding her release.

Saberi grew up in North Dakota and graduated from Concordia College. She was Miss North Dakota 1997 and worked briefly at KVLY-TV in Fargo.

> Update from an NPR interview with Saberi’s father: “In the beginning…under pressure, she had made some statements. And later, when they questioned again, she denied, said that those things that she had said were not right. But they apparently, in the case, they didn’t consider her denial. She is very weak and frail, last time we saw. And she wanted to go on hunger strike, but we persuaded her not to do so. And after this, most probably she will.”

> More: Statement from NPR president Vivian Schiller – “We are deeply distressed by this harsh and unwarranted sentence. Ms. Saberi has already endured a three month confinement in Evin Prison, and we are very concerned for her well-being. Through her work for NPR over several years, we know her as an established and respected professional journalist. We appeal to all of those who share our concerns to ask that the Iranian authorities show compassion and allow her to return home to the Untied States immediately with her parents.”

> More: Statement from ABC News – “We are distressed by the sentence of espionage delivered to our colleague Roxana Saberi today. There was no evidence of espionage made public and her trial was conducted in secret. Roxana’s friends and colleagues at ABC News are extremely concerned for her well-being and our thoughts have been with Roxana and her family throughout this ordeal. We urge the Iranian government to release Roxana to her family immediately.

> More: Statement from Feature Story News president and chief correspondent – FSN’s President and Chief Correspondent Simon Marks issued the following statement: “Roxana’s conviction is an appalling miscarriage of justice – or what passes for justice in modern Iran. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to Roxana and her family at this extremely difficult time. We once again urge the Iranian authorities to release Roxana immediately into the custody of her family, so that she can make plans to return to the United States where she was born and raised”.”