8 Years in Iranian Prison for Alleged U.S. Spy

American-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi was convicted of espionage against Iran in a sentence announced by Tehran on Saturday. The verdict carries with it an eight-year prison term and was reached after a closed-door trial in Iran that lasted exactly one day.

The U.S. isn’t keeping quiet, but how Iran will respond to federal pressure is yet to be seen. President Obama stated today that Saberi is not a spy and demanded her release. “She is an American citizen and I have complete confidence that she was not engaging in any sort of espionage.” She was “interested in the country which her family came from, and it is appropriate for her to be treated as such and to be released.”

Several U.S. government officials, including Obama, made overtures to Iran prior to the trial, but to no avail. The circumstances surrounding Saberi’s arrest in January did not suggest she was suspected of spying, and there are scholars who believe her arrest and sentencing are part of internal politics relating to Iran’s upcoming elections. In Iran, espionage is a crime that can be punishable by death.

Roxana SaberiThe National Iranian American Council (NIAC) in Washington issued a statement that makes clear their disapproval of the questionable trial and its outcome. NIAC President Trita Parsi said, “The changing rationales for her arrest and the one-day secret trial seriously call into question the validity of the charges against Ms. Saberi and the fairness of her trial.”

The U.S. government firmly believes that Saberi has been charged for a crime she has not committed. She is a journalist who was practicing her profession in a country that was of interest to her given her heritage. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the U.S. government would “continue to vigorously raise our concerns to the Iranian government.”

While the United States stands by the belief that Saberi is not and was never a spy, her father is worried about more practical matters. He told NPR today that he is concerned about how she will cope physically with an Iranian prison. “She is very weak and frail, last time we saw,” he said.

photo courtesy of AP/www.examiner.com

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