State Department Weighs in on Iran Spy Trial

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Washington—The State Department is heavily concerned about the Iranian private trial which is being held, in which an American journalist is accused of espionage. The State Department called these accusations “baseless” and urged that her release could only help U.S.-Iranian relations.

Iranian reports confirmed that Roxana Saberi’s trial began earlier this week. According to the same reports, Saberi confessed to the charges of spying. Acting State Department spokesman Robert Wood said “We’ve been very concerned about the transparency of this judicial process. And we call on the Iranians to provide as much information as they can to us about Roxana Saberi.”

Ali Reza Jamshidi, a spokesman for the judiciary, said Saberi’s lawyer has completed his defense and that the verdict should be announced in upcoming weeks.

There are no formal ties between Iran and the United States, so in trials, Switzerland is usually present to represent the United States. In this occurrence, a Swiss representative was not allowed to be present at the trial because it was performed in secret. It was unclear whether Saberi was even allowed to have a lawyer present at the trial. Her alleged lawyer could not be local for comments.

Reza Saberi, Roxana Saberi’s father, said that she had called him to announce that she had been arrested on February 10th but thought that it was because she purchased a bottle of wine.

“She said she bought a bottle of wine last year and kept it to take to a friend for her birthday,” he said. “She said authorities told her the person who sold her the wine turned her in.” Alcohol is banned in Iran.

Iran’s Press TV reported last week that Saberi was arrested in January. She was accused of having worked illegally, even after her press card was taken away in 2006. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hassan Qashqavi, also announced in March that Saberi had no permit to work in Iran.

“Her press card was revoked,” Qashqavi said. “Without a permit, she should not have been engaged in news and information gathering in Iran.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a letter to the Iranian delegation requesting any updates and calling for the safe release of Saberi and Esha Momeni, an Iranian-American student arrested in Iran in October, as well as Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran in March 2007.

Wood said that, “We think responding in a positive way to the Saberi case would be helpful, in terms of winning goodwill on the part of the United States and the American people.” He also called such detentions of Americans “unhelpful,” to U.S.-Iranian relations, stating, “We don’t want to see more of these cases.”

 

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