US-Iranian reporter victim of Iranian extremists’ bid to block talks with US

In the course of opening up US relations with Iran, the Obama administration was confronted April 18 with an unforeseen obstacle: A Tehran court convicted the US-born American-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi of spying for the US and sentenced the 31-year old to eight years in jail. Her attorney was barred from attending the one-day trial behind closed doors.
debkafile‘s Iranian sources explain the timing of the Saberi case as an attempt by wildly anti-US elements inside Tehran’s power structure, possibly in the Revolutionary Guards Corps and clergy, to choke off an Iranian-US rapprochement. Already, some political circles in Washington are up in arms over the heavy sentence, embarrassing the White House at the very moment it is extending a hand to Iran, reported to entail acceptance of its nuclear program.
This policy has encountered little open criticism at home till now.
Saberi, born of an Iranian father and Japanese mother, lived in Iran for six years and freelanced for the BBC, Fox News and National Public Radio. Her license as a journalist was cancelled after two years when her reports did not fit the official line. She was then accused of working without valid credentials, buying a bottle of wine and finally espionage, a charge vigorously denied in Washington.
She is held in Evin prison, the notorious jail for Iran’s political dissidents.
The State Department is working with the Swiss Protecting Presence to obtain details of the secret court proceedings and ensure Roxana Saberi’s wellbeing. Hillary Clinton said: “We will continue to vigorously raise our concerns to the Iranian government.”
However Tehran does not recognize dual citizenship and considers her case an Iranian security matter. “Reporters without Borders” has condemned her conviction as unjustly severe and a “warning to all foreign journalists working in Iran.”

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