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‘Saberi had Classified Document’

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13 May 09 | PTV and BBC

One of the lawyers of freed Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi has explained why his client was detained and convicted for espionage.


Saleh Nikbakht said Saberi had been convicted because she had copied and kept a “confidential Iranian government document” about the U.S. war on Iraq and because she had visited Israel.

He added that in her appeal court hearing on Sunday, Saberi confirmed that she obtained the document and copied it out of “curiosity” while she was working as a freelance translator for the influential Expediency Council.

He also confirmed that a visit by her client to Israel in 2006 had been raised at her trial.

Saberi, who acknowledged visiting Israel, said in her defense that she had carried out no activities against Iran there.

The Iranian government bars its citizens from visiting Israel.

Saberi, 32, is a freelance journalist who was initially detained in late January after she continued her work in Iran after her press credentials had expired.

She was later sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of spying for the government of the United States.

After a Tehran court of appeals reviewed her case, her jail sentence was reduced to a two-year suspended term and she was released from Iran’s Evin house of detention.

The suspended sentence will be automatically abolished if Saberi shows no unlawful conduct in the next five years.

The sentence reduction came after the appeals court ruled that Saberi should not be convicted of ‘working with a hostile country’ because Tehran is not at war with Washington despite U.S. support for hostile groups working against Iran.

Speaking outside her home in Tehran a day after her release, Saberi expressed delight with the ruling

“I am very happy that I have been released and reunited with my father and mother. I am very grateful to all the people who knew me or didn’t know me and helped attain my release,” she said.

Her father, Reza Saberi, who is Iranian, said his daughter “was not tortured at all” while in jail.

He told reporters that his family plans to return to the U.S.. “Roxana has lost a lot of weight. She is recovering,” he explained.

Saberi has lived in Iran for six years and has reported as a freelancer for the BBC and National Public Radio and other media outlets.

‘No bad intentions’

Mr Nikbakht did not say how Roxana Saberi had gained access to the document, prepared by Iran’s Centre for Strategic Research.

“Because she did not have bad intentions and did not use it, she was sentenced to a two-year suspended jail term,” he told Reuters news agency.

Ms Saberi, whose parents live in the U.S., is now able to leave Iran. She has been banned by the Iranians from working as a journalist there for five years.

On Tuesday, in her first public comments since being released, she said she was very happy to be free , and she thanked people around the world who had supported her.

Her case had attracted international attention. The White House in Washington said Iran’s decision to free her was a “humanitarian gesture”.

She originally faced a less serious accusation of buying alcohol, and later of working as a reporter without a valid press card.

The spying charge was introduced later, and she was tried and sentenced behind closed doors.

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Written by Editors

13 May 2009 at 3:09 pm

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