Saberi appears in a closed Revolutionary Court trial

New York, April 14, 2009–Iranian authorities must ensure that journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been charged with espionage, is treated fairly and justly, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The Iranian-American freelancer, who was arrested in late January, appeared in court for the first time on Monday. 

Iranian judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi told a news conference in Tehran today that Saberi appeared before a Revolutionary Court for a closed, one-day trial, during which she presented a defense, Reuters and The Associated Press reported. “I think the verdict will be announced soon, perhaps in the next two or three weeks,” Jamshidi said.

Abdolsamad Korramshahi, Saberi’s lawyer, told AP that he was not authorized to discuss the case until after the trial had concluded.

“We’re troubled that Roxana Saberi’s only court appearance took place behind closed doors and that her lawyer has been told not to talk to the press,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “We are concerned about our colleague’s well-being. The secrecy surrounding Saberi’s sole appearance in court and the swiftness with which the trial was concluded suggest that she may not be receiving due process.”

Saberi has worked for several international media organizations, including National Public Radio, the BBC, and ABC News. She was detained in January, but formal charges were not announced against her until last week. Details of the charges have not been made public.  

On February 10, Saberi contacted her family from inside the prison and told them that she had been arrested for purchasing a bottle of wine. Later a spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry announced that she was detained for reporting without the proper press accreditation. 

Saberi is being held in Tehran’s Evin Prison, where political prisoners are often jailed. A blogger and a photojournalist have died at Evin in the last six years in circumstances that have not been fully explained.