Renewed efforts to free American journalist


Roxana Saberi, who reported for NPR, Fox News, the BBC and other outlets, remains in an Iranian prison, now charged as a spy. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week called on the Iranian government to release the reporter and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a US Muslim organization, has added its call for Saberi’s release.

Numerous US and international news organizations had called for the Iranian government to disclose why Saberi had been held since the last day of January and what, if any charges she was facing. Now the stakes have been raised, with an Iranian judge telling state-run television last week that she has been charged with espionage and that she used journalism as a cover to gather information for “America’s intelligence service.” Shortly thereafter, an Iranian prosecutor said Saberi had confessed to conducting spying operations while passing herself off as a journalist.

A spokesman said the US State Department gave no credence to the purported confession and suggested that the Iranian government should release the American reporter as a “humanitarian gesture.”

Although the US does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, the State Department has been pursuing a diplomatic settlement through indirect contacts with the Iranian government. Reuters reported that Secretary of State Clinton had said she was “deeply concerned” about Saberi’s imprisonment and called for her release.

If reports on the Iranian state-run media are correct – and they have been wrong before – Saberi may be put on trial this week. Her father, who was born in Iran, is in Tehran and says he will stay there until his daughter is released. Reza Saberi and his wife, who live in North Dakota, were allowed to visit with their daughter in prison last week.