Iran Careful in Response to US Criticism of Saberi Case
The head of Iran's judiciary has ordered a prompt
and fair appeal process for imprisoned U.S.-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi,
who was convicted of spying last week after a one-day trial. Saberi's parents,
who visited her in jail, report she is in good condition.
|Roxana Saberi in
a 2004 National Press Photographers Association file image
In what may be a sign that Iran is eager not to derail a nascent dialogue with
the United States, the country's judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi
Shahroudi is ordering a quick and fair appeal process for U.S. journalist Roxana
Saberi. Saberi was convicted of spying Saturday, and sentenced to eight years in
In a memo to the Tehran prosecutor, Shahroudi wrote Saberi must have "access to
fair consideration in [her] case, especially at the appeals stage, [since this]
is an undeniable right of the accused."
"Various aspects of this case," he added, "including material and moral elements
of the crime, must be considered ... in a careful, quick and fair way."
Saberi's parents also visited her in prison. Her
mother, Akiko, said that she was happy because her daughter looked well.
Call on Iran to Free Roxana Saberi
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said
Monday she hopes Iranian calls for a reexamination of the spy case
against Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi will lead to her
speedy release. Both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the
country's judiciary chief have stressed the need for a fair appeal
for the detained reporter.
Top administration officials from President Obama on down have said the spy
charges against Saberi are without foundation. And Secretary Clinton says she
hopes calls by senior Iranian officials for a fair review of her spying
conviction will lead to her early release and return home.
President Obama said in Trinidad and Tobago Sunday he had complete confidence
that Saberi, who had reported for National Public Radio and the BBC, was not
engaged in espionage.
At a joint press appearance with Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen,
Secretary of State Clinton reiterated that the charges against Saberi are
baseless and that she should be freed immediately.
"She has been subjected to a process that has been not transparent,
unpredictable, arbitrary," said Clinton. "And we hope that actions will be taken
as soon as possible by authorities in Iran including the judiciary to bring
about the speedy release of Miss Saberi and her speedy return home. So we
obviously are closely monitoring the situation and working with the Swiss, who
are our protectorate representative in the country, and hoping that these
remarks [Ahmadinejad and judiciary chief] lead to action."
For his part, Foreign Minister Verhagen declined specific comment on the Saberi
case but said the Iranian government should avail itself of the Obama
administration's overture to Iran for dialogue.
"We hope the Iranian authorities realize the significance of this gesture. Iran
has much to gain but time is essential," he said. "No reaction to the
outstretched hand would be an answer in itself."
The Obama administration has offered Tehran dialogue without conditions and said
it will take direct part in a proposed joint meeting with Iran on its nuclear
program involving the five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and
"I think she is a stronger person than I thought," she said. "Her birthday is
coming. Her birthday is this weekend and she is my birthday gift. And as far as
she is healthy and she is taking good care of herself, I told her I will be
o.k. Don't worry about me."
Saberi's father, Reza, complained that it took several hours to get inside the
prison to see his daughter, and that they talked about a number things,
including her situation.
"We talked about different things. We delivered some books that was a good news
because she likes reading books and she said that she is with two other persons,
two other ladies over there in the prison and she was looking forward for the
appeal because she knew that this kind of verdict was too heavy for her," he
He also urged the judge to be "compassionate" in his decision and "pay close
attention to all the evidence." Her mother went on to insist that her daughter
could "never be a spy."
U.S. President Barack Obama indicated he was "gravely worried" about Saberi's
safety and well-being, and called for Tehran to release her. He also said he is
certain Saberi was "not engaged in any sort of espionage."
Saberi's trial and conviction have poured cold water on efforts by the Obama
administration to resume dialogue with Iran, after a 30 year hiatus in
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi said President Obama should not
pass judgment without knowing the details of the case. He says he advises not to
comment on a lawsuit until its content is revealed. He says fortunately the
Iranian judicial system has paid full consideration to the process of retrieving
rights, such as the right of appealing a verdict in higher judicial references,
and this right has also been reserved for Ms. Saberi and her lawyer.
Responding to criticism Saberi had not been able to consult her attorney at all
stages of her trial, Qashqavi insisted she would have access to him. He says
that the ongoing judicial process regarding her case has been in full accordance
with the law, and that includes granting her access to her lawyer.
Iran's Press TV reported that Qashqavi also urged the United States to release
five Iranians arrested by U.S. forces in Kurdistan in 2007. Iran claims that the
five, who belong to the elite al-Quds Forces, were "abducted."
Iran experts say Tehran has been trying to pressure the United States into
releasing the men by arresting dual-national scholars and journalists. Iran is
believed to be holding former FBI agent Robert Levinson, in addition to several
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