TEHRAN, Iran — An American journalist jailed in Iran has been convicted of spying and sentenced to eight years in prison, her lawyer said Saturday, dashing any hopes for her quick release.
Roxana Saberi, a 31-year-old dual American-Iranian citizen, was arrested in late January and initially accused of working without press credentials. But an Iranian judge later leveled a far more serious allegation, charging her with spying for the United States.
She appeared before an Iranian court behind closed doors on Monday in an unusually swift one-day trial. The Fargo, North Dakota native had been living in Iran for six years and had worked as a freelance reporter for several news organizations including National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp.
“Saberi has been sentenced to eight years in jail. I’ll definitely appeal the verdict,” lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshahi told The Associated Press. It was not immediately known when she was convicted.
The United States has called the charges against Saberi baseless and has demanded her release. The conviction and prison sentence could put strains on efforts to improve ties between the longtime adversaries.
The Obama administration has said it wants to engage Iran in talks on its nuclear program and other issues. Iran’s hard-line president last week said the Islamic Republic also was willing to have a new relationship with Washington.
But he also said, “We say to you that you yourselves know that you are today in a position of weakness. Your hands are empty, and you can no longer promote your affairs from a position of strength.” He’s not looking for a “new relationship” with the U.S. because he’s just such a swell guy.
But on Thursday, the State Department said Saberi’s jailing was not helpful and that Iran would gain U.S. good will if it “responded in a positive way” to the case…
They didn’t. Now what?