(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders "firmly condemns" the eight-year prison sentence which a Tehran revolutionary court passed on 18 April 2009 on Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi on a charge of spying for the United States.
"This conviction was unjust under the Iranian criminal code and the sentence was severe," Reporters Without Borders said.
"Saberi's lawyer was not with her when she appeared before the judges for the single hearing on 13 April. Coming as it does in the run-up to elections, this sentence is a warning to all foreign journalists working in Iran."
The Saberi case is the latest example of how the Iranian authorities arbitrarily use spying charges to arrest journalists and tighten the gag on free expression.
Aged 31, Saberi has been detained ever since her arrest in Tehran in late January. The trial opened before a revolutionary court on 13 April and only one hearing was held, lasting a day. Her lawyer, Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, confirmed today to Reporters Without Borders that she has been convicted and sentenced and said he was going to appeal.
Saberi's arrest was revealed by National Public Radio (NPR) in the United States on 1 March, following a call from her father on 10 February. The day after the NPR report, the Iranian authorities confirmed she was being held in north Tehran's Evin prison. On 2 March, foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said she had been working "illegally" in Iran.
Judicial authority spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said on 3 March that she had been "arrested on the order of the Tehran revolutionary court and is now in detention in Evin prison."
Born and brought up in the United States, Saberi has an Iranian father who became a US citizen. She moved to Iran six years ago, working as a stringer for NPR from 2002 to 2006. She also worked for the BBC and Fox News. The Iranian authorities do not recognise dual citizenship and regard her as an Iranian like any other.
Her father, Reza Saberi, told Reporters Without Borders that she had not worked for the media since 2006. She did not have access to news and information as she did not have press accreditation, he said. "Her writings were just personal notes and comments about cultural and literary subjects with a view to writing a book about Iran," he said, adding that "she had been concentrating since 2006 on studying Farsi and Iranian culture at a Tehran university."
Updates the Saberi case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/102313