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Iranian-American charged with espionage

Tehran, April 8, 2009

Iran's judiciary has charged detained Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi with espionage -- a move likely to disappoint Washington as it tries to reach out to Tehran.

The Iranian news agency ISNA quoted a judge who is the deputy head of the prosecutor's office as saying Saberi had 'accepted' the accusation.

Her lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, told Reuters: 'As they have announced, they have accused her of espionage.'    
Saberi, a 31-year-old Iranian-American freelance journalist who was born in the United States and has reported for the BBC, NPR and other media, was arrested in late January for working in the Islamic Republic after her press credentials had expired.

Under Iran's penal code, the crime of espionage can carry the death penalty. Last November Iran executed an Iranian businessman convicted of spying on the military for Israel.

'She had been carrying out espionage activities ... under the cover of a journalist ... and she has accepted the accusations,' ISNA quoted judge Haddad as saying. It gave only his last name.

'She has been charged and a branch of the Revolutionary Court is reviewing her case now,' he said, referring to a court which handles security issues.

Khorramshahi said no court date had yet been announced.

The United States, which is embroiled in a long-running dispute with Iran over the Islamic state's nuclear programme, has been calling for her immediate release.

Washington cut ties with Tehran almost three decades ago, shortly after the Islamic revolution in 1979, but the new administration of President Barack Obama has offered to extend a hand of peace if Iran 'unclenches its fist'.

Iran says it wants to see real change in Washington's policies, away from those of former President George W. Bush, who led a drive to isolate Tehran because of nuclear work the West suspects has military aims, a charge Iran denies.

Saberi's parents visited her in Tehran's Evin jail on Monday, after arriving from the United States. Khorramshahi then said she was in good health and mental condition.

Her parents appealed to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last month for their daughter's release, saying she was in a 'critical' mental condition.

She grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, and is a dual citizen of the United States and Iran. She has lived in Iran for six years.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week the United States had given a letter to Iranian officials during a meeting in Europe, seeking Iran's help in resolving the cases of Saberi and of two other Americans.

Tehran, which does not recognize dual nationality, denies receiving any such letter.

Judge Haddad said: 'She is an Iranian citizen. There is no document to show she has dual nationality... This issue has no impact on reviewing her case in Iran's judicial system.' - Reuters




Tags: Iran | US | espionage |

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