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Lawyer For Reporter Held In Iran Awaits Charges

The lawyer for Roxana Saberi, an American journalist charged with espionage by Iranian authorities, says he has not seen any of the evidence against her.

Saberi, a freelance reporter for several news organizations, including NPR, was charged Wednesday with spying for U.S. intelligence services.

Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, the attorney hired by the Saberi family to represent the 31-year-old Saberi, told NPR that he has had no access to his client or her files for about two weeks.


In that time, Saberi has been interrogated and charged with espionage. Iranian authorities claim she has confessed to the charge against her. Saberi was initially accused of working without press credentials when she was arrested in January.

State Department Calls Charge 'Baseless'

State Department spokesman Robert Wood on Thursday expressed concern and said the U.S. does not give credence to reports that Saberi confessed to the spying charge.

"This charge is baseless. It's without foundation. And what we want to see Iran do is to release Roxana Saberi so that she can go back to her family," he said.

Khorramshahi said he will attempt to see Saberi on Saturday.


"I definitely need to see her in person. I have not been able to speak with her recently. I also need to make sure that she can get released on bail before any court hearing or trial," he said in a telephone interview.

Saberi's press credentials had been revoked in 2006, but the government tolerated her reporting short news stories out of Iran.

A Worried Father

Her father, Reza Saberi, says his daughter was working on a book on Iran and had planned to return to the United States later this year. She has lived in Iran for the past six years, working as a freelance journalist.

He says he doesn't know why his daughter was charged with spying for the U.S. He also questions whether she will be treated fairly by the Iranian judicial system.

"We don't know if she will receive due process, [if] she will receive just judgment," Reza Saberi said Thursday by telephone from Tehran. He has vowed to remain there until his daughter is released.

Saberi's case will be heard by the Revolutionary Court, which normally handles cases involving Iran's national security.

Reza Saberi says there's not much a defense lawyer can do.

"He can defend but in the long run, they make the decision. So if it goes to court, anything is possible then," he said.

Roxana Saberi was born in the United States — her father is Iranian and her mother is Japanese — and also holds an Iranian passport. She was raised in Fargo, N.D.

Iranian officials have refused to acknowledge her U.S. passport and have said that in any case it will not influence how she is treated by the Iranian judicial system.

A Pawn Of Internal Iranian Politics?

The State Department and major news organizations, including NPR, have called for Saberi's release. The U.S. has asked Swiss diplomats in Iran to provide any up-to-date information about Saberi's situation.

Karim Sadjadpour, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says the U.S. has to carefully calibrate how hard it wants to push Iran on the Saberi issue.

Sadjadpour says the Iranians will not want to be seen as yielding to pressure from Washington. He says Saberi may be an "unfortunate pawn" in an effort by Iranian hard-liners who want to disrupt a potential opening of relations between Tehran and the Obama administration.

Sadjadpour says he doesn't "for one second believe they take seriously the charges of espionage that they've leveled against her."

He says Saberi may have fallen into a recent pattern of arrests.

"There have been three or four incidents of Iranian-Americans and Iranian-Canadians being imprisoned in Tehran in the last two years," he said.

In almost all the cases, the individuals have spent four months in prison and then have been released on bail and eventually allowed to leave the country, he said.

With luck, Saberi's case will follow that pattern, Sadjadpour said.

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