A 31-year-old Iranian-American journalist (photo, from aljazeera.net) has been put to trial in Iran this week. She is accused of spying for the US. A verdict is expected soon, said an Iranian official.
“The first trial meeting on Roxana Saberi was held yesterday [Monday]“, judiciary spokesman Ali Jamshidi told a news conference in Tehran.
“I think the verdict will be announced soon, perhaps in the next two or three weeks”, the official added.
Ms Saberi is being held in Evin prison near Tehran and has been in custody in the Iranian capital since late January.
She holds dual citizenship and was working as a freelance journalist in Iran for six years. Three years ago, she worked briefly for the BBC, and has also worked for the American public radio network NPR and the TV network Fox News. Her father said she was working on a book when she was arrested.
First, Ms Saberi faced the less serious accusations of buying alcohol, then working as a journalist without a valid press card. However, last week Iranian prosecutors accused her of spying for the US.
The Justice Ministry said she is being tried in a closed hearing of Iran’s revolutionary court, which handles national security cases.
Her release has been demanded by Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State.
On Tuesday, Robert Wood, the US state department spokesman, called the charges against Ms Saberi “baseless and without foundation” and demanded her immediate release.
Mr Wood comment raised criticism from Mr Jamshidi, who said : “That a government expresses an opinion without seeing the indictment is laughable.”
As few details have been released about the charges against Ms Saberi, Mr Jamshidi also said : “Giving an opinion on a case, by an individual or a government, without being informed about the facts in it, is utterly ridiculous.”
No more details of the case have been released, and Ms Saberi’s lawyer says he has been told not to speak to the media.
Ms Saberi’s parents arrived in Tehran earlier this month and were allowed to see her for 20 minutes. They found her in good health and good spirits, said her lawyer.
“We met Roxana today for a few minutes and she is doing well”, her father told the AFP news agency.
“We are waiting for the judge to make a decision … There is always hope. But we don’t know what will happen.”
Last week, Hassan Haddad, Tehran’s deputy prosecutor, said Ms Saberi was carrying out “spying activities under the guise of being a reporter”.
“The evidence is mentioned in her case papers and she has accepted all the charges.”
Earlier this month, her father told National Public Radio that she wanted to see her lawyer in order to point out some of the statements she made were “under pressure, under threat”.