U.S.-Iranian Reporter Held in Iran for Spying

U.S.-born journalist Roxana Saberi, who is a dual American-Iranian citizen, was detained in a prison in Tehran in late January. Now, over two months later, she has been officially charged with espionage. Deputy Prosecutor Hassan Haddad says Saberi was “carrying out spying activities under the guise of being a reporter.” She has been accused of gathering and passing information on to U.S. intelligence agencies.

U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood responded: “We’re deeply concerned about the Iranian government announcement that Roxana Saberi has been charged with espionage…. This charge is baseless. It’s without foundation.”

Although U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama have both called for Saberi’s release, she is due to stand trial for espionage next week.

Roxana Saberi with former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami

Saberi, 31, was living in Iran for six years and reported for several Western news agencies before she was arrested earlier this year, reportedly for working in Iran without valid press credentials. Saberi told her father she was detained after purchasing a bottle of wine.

Tom Ambrosio, associate professor of political science at North Dakota State University, said the increased charges are not surprising. “Espionage is a very typical thing that authoritarian governments charge journalists or people they don’t like with,” he explained.

William O. Beeman, an anthropology professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied Iran for 30 years, said he believes Saberi has been caught in the middle of internal political tensions while Iran is in the midst of elections.

If convicted of espionage, Saberi may face the death penalty – others in Iran have been executed for spying. Beeman, however, thinks the chances of this happening in Saberi’s case are very slim.

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