Iranian-American journalist, Roxana Saberi, who was detained in Iran for purchasing a bottle of wine, has now been charged with spying or espionage. She is currently being held in Tehran’s Evin prison. Read her biography below, see photos and watch a video.

Roxana Saberi

Roxana Saberi, Journalist charged with spying by Iran

Roxana Saberi originally thought back in late January that she would be held by the Iranian police for just a couple of days for purchasing a bottle of wine which is banned under Islamic laws. A couple of weeks later, she was told she was being detained for ‘illegal’ news gathering or journalism without a license.

Now it seems charges of spying and espionage have been filed against her under the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran. She has reported ‘confessed’ to the charges but her father, who saw her this week, says that confession was made under duress.

We can imagine that.

Iran had revoked Roxana Saberi’s license to work as a journalist back in late 2006, but she chose to remain behind anyway to work on her book on the stories of everyday Iranian life. Roxana, a former Miss North Dakota, has dual citizenship because her father was born in Iran. She has now lived there for about six years.

Reportedly the Iranians often revoke permits for journalists while ignoring their work, but they obviously came to a different decision about Roxana which – coincidentally – came around the same time we swore in a new president, The One himself.

Now think about this: the Iranians have simply fallen over themselves to poke Obama in the eye since he has taken office — including on his call for ‘greater dialogue’. They are unmoveable on their position on ‘nuclear research’ and have done their best to look as generally oppositional as possible.

These spy charges against Roxana Saberi are just one more boundary test for the fumbling Obama Administration. Will Obama demand Saberi’s release publicly? He better. Will Iran use it as a bargaining chip for further concessions? Most likely.

We will soon see how Obama responds to this latest test. In the meantime, we need to keep Roxanna Saberi and her family in your prayers.

Update 4/18/09: After a close-door trial, American citizen Roxana Saberi has been sentenced by the Iranian Regime, to 8 years in prison for spying – a crime she clearly did not commit. Her attorney plans to appeal the verdict but we are talking about Iran here so who knows about the effectiveness of that move.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington would ‘continue to vigorously raise our concerns to the Iranian government. Our thoughts are with her parents and family during this difficult time.’ That’s it?

Update 4/19/09: It seems President Ahmadinejad’s office made public a letter written to the state prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, requesting that Roxana Saberi’s appeal case and that of a detained Iranian blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, be dealt with in strict accordance with the law.

“Based on the President’s insistence, please make sure that all the legal stages about the mentioned people be based on justice,” said the letter, written by Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, the presidential chief of staff. “You personally make sure that the accused people will enjoy all freedoms and legal rights to defend themselves and their rights will not be violated.”

Although Iran’s judiciary is supposed to be independent under Iran’s constitution, cases involving foreigner prisoners are always highly politicized. This is just another fresh foreign diplomacy crisis for The One’s crack policy people to deal with. So far, they have only issued statement that they are ‘deeply disappointed with the decision’ and want the situation to be ‘remedied.’

Of course the U.S. doesn’t have an embassy in Iran and negotiates its positions to the Iranians via the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.


Update 4/19/09: Obama has spoken publically now on Roxana’s prison sentence of 8 years saying that he’s “gravely concerned” about her safety and well-being. He is also is calling for her release from an Iranian prison stating he is confident she was not involved in spying.


Update 4/27/09: Today is Roxana Saberi’s 32nd birthday. In what has grown into an international outrage, she continues to be locked up in an Iranian prison, serving an 8 year sentence for spying. Roxana is now on a hunger strike which is incredibly alarming to her family who are waiting anxiously for some sort of break that will allow her to be returned home to the United States. If you have a blog, join Michelle’s blogburst in support of Roxana’s freedom.

Roxana Saberi Biography

Roxana Saberi was born in Fargo, North Dakota and her age 31. She is an American journalist living and working in Iran. Roxana was arrested in January 2009 for the purchase of a bottle of wine which is banned under Islamic laws. On April 8, 2009, the Iranian Government charged Roxana Saberi with espionage.

Roxana Saberi is the daughter of Reza Saberi, who was born in Iran, and Akiko Saberi, who is from Japan. Roxana Saberi played soccer and piano in high school. She was chosen Miss North Dakota in 1997 and was among the top ten finalists in Miss America 1998.

She graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota with degrees in communication and French. She holds her first Master’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from Northwestern University and her second Master’s Degree in International Relations from Cambridge University. She is currently working on yet another Masters degree in Iranian studies and international relations.

Roxana Saberi is a freelance journalist who moved to Iran six years ago, and reports for NPR, the BBC, and other news organizations.

More photos and a video from ‘Roxana Saberi: Iranian Spy or American Journalist in Iran?’ are below.

Roxana Saberi 1Roxana Saberi 2Roxana Saberi 4Roxana Saberi 3Roxana Saberi Khatami
Roxana Saberi (Photos)

Roxana Saberi (Video)