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Iran charges detained US reporter with spying

US-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been detained in a notorious Tehran prison since January, has been charged with spying, deputy prosecutor Hassan Haddad said on Wednesday.

world Updated: Apr 08, 2009 19:26 IST

US-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been detained in a notorious Tehran prison since January, has been charged with spying, deputy prosecutor Hassan Haddad said on Wednesday.

“Her case has been sent to the revolutionary court. She, without press credentials, was carrying out spying activities under the guise of being a reporter,” Haddad was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.

“The evidence is mentioned in her case papers and she has accepted all the charges. She has been arrested under the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The decision to charge the journalist comes despite calls by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her release and US President Barack Obama extending diplomatic overtures towards Iran.

Saberi, who holds both US and Iranian nationalities, was initially reportedly detained for buying alcohol which is prohibited in the Islamic republic.

In March, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said Saberi’s press identity card was revoked in 2006 and since then she had been working “illegally” in the country.

Haddad said on Wednesday that Saberi had entered Iran as an “Iranian citizen.”

“She has an Iranian citizenship, passport and an Iranian national identity card. She has entered Iran as an Iranian citizen and if she has another citizenship, we are unaware of it and it has no effect on how we will proceed with her case,” he said.

“There is no evidence that she has another citizenship and the investigation is still on.”

Saberi’s lawyer Abdolsamad Khoramshahi said he has still not seen the charges.

“I will go on Sunday to the court to seek authorisation for reading the charges, and to seek permission to meet her. I can’t react to the charges till I have read them,” he told AFP.

US-born Saberi has reported for US-based National Public Radio (NPR), the BBC and Fox News, and had been living in Iran for six years.

Her parents, Reza and Akiko Saberi, arrived in Tehran on Sunday to pursue her case. They had a 20-minute meeting with her in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison on Monday.

Her father told NPR on Tuesday that he planned to stay in Iran until her case was resolved.

He said Roxana, 31, was surprised by their visit, and that she looked pale and weak but was in good spirits.

He said she also wanted to see her lawyer “to point out ... that apparently some of the statements were made under pressure, under threat, you know. So that they were not valid.”

Reza Saberi said he and his wife would try to visit their daughter once a week.

Last month the parents appealed to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for her release, saying she was in a “dangerous” state of mental health.

Iran, which does not recognize dual nationality and has had no ties with the United States for three decades, has detained several Iranian-Americans, including academics, in recent years.

US Secretary of State Clinton delivered a letter to the Iranian delegation on the sidelines of an international conference on Afghanistan in The Hague on March 31, seeking the release of Saberi and making appeals on behalf of two other US nationals.

Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent, vanished on the Gulf island of Kish two years ago while student Esha Momeni has been prevented from leaving Iran despite her release from an Iranian jail last year.

Momeni - a graduate student at California State University - was detained in Tehran on October 15 and released on bail in November but authorities have prevented her from leaving Iran.

She had travelled to Iran for a research on women’s rights but was detained on charges of acting against Iran’s national security.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi has, however, denied receiving any letter from US officials asking about the three US nationals.

First Published: Apr 08, 2009 19:24 IST