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Hillary Angered by Reporter's Sentencing in Iran

Saturday, 18 Apr 2009 12:25 PM

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led a chorus of dismay Saturday at the eight-year jail sentence for US-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi by an Iranian court that accused her of spying.

"I am deeply disappointed by the reported sentencing of Roxana Saberi by the Iranian judiciary," said Clinton, who was attending a Summit of the Americas with President Barack Obama in Trinidad and Tobago.

"We will continue to vigorously raise our concerns to the Iranian government," she said in a statement.

"We are working closely with the Swiss Protecting Presence to obtain details about the court's decision, and to ensure her well being."

The verdict came despite calls by Clinton for Saberi's release and Obama's diplomatic overtures to Iran after three decades of severed ties.

The reporter had been detained in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran since January and went on trial behind closed doors on Monday accused of spying for the United States.

"This is a shocking miscarriage of justice," said US Senator Byron Dorgan, who represents the state of North Dakota where Saberi's family lives.

"The Iranian government has held a secret trial, will not make public any evidence, and sentenced an American citizen to eight years in prison for a crime she didn't commit.

"I call on the Iranian government to show compassion," said Dorgan, adding that he would continue to work with the Saberi family, US State Department officials and the international community to gain her release.

"I will not rest until Roxana is given her freedom and arrives home in the US," added Dorgan in a statement after her conviction.

The state's other US senator, Kent Conrad, described her Saberi's sentence as "preposterous" and a "travesty of justice."

Iran, said Conrad, "is doing enormous damage to their credibility on the world stage with behavior like this."

Saberi, who has been living in Iran for six years, reported for NPR, the BBC and Fox News, and while working as a journalist was pursuing a master's degree in Iranian studies and international relations.

National Public Radio president Vivian Schiller said the network was "deeply distressed by this harsh and unwarranted sentence."

Saberi "has already endured a three-month confinement in Evin prison, and we are very concerned for her well-being," she added.

"We appeal to all of those who share our concerns to ask that the Iranian authorities show compassion and allow her to return home to the United States immediately with her parents."

The BBC said in a statement issued in London that it was "extremely concerned at this severe sentence."

"Roxana was tried in secret and no evidence of espionage has been made public," it said.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said in March that Saberi's press card had been revoked in 2006 and since then she had been working "illegally."

Earlier this week State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters that the charges of espionage against Saberi "are baseless, without foundation."

Copyright 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.

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