UPDATE, May 12, 2009: Video: Journalist Roxana Saberi Speaks for First Time Since Release From Iranian Jail
UPDATE, May 11, 2009: Roxana Saberi Freed
UPDATE, April 27, 2009: Roxana Saberi: In "Bad Condition"
Roxana Saberi, as Miss North Dakota
Iran keeps testing the Obama administration, and it keeps failing.
When Obama learned that Roxana Saberi, an American journalist, was sentenced to eight years in prison on spying charges, he said he was "deeply disappointed."
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran convicted an American journalist of spying for the United States and sentenced her to eight years in prison, her lawyer said Saturday, complicating the Obama administration's efforts to break a 30-year-old diplomatic deadlock with Tehran.
The White House said President Barack Obama was "deeply disappointed" by the conviction, while the journalist's father told a radio station his daughter was tricked into making incriminating statements by officials who told her they would free her if she did.
It was the first time Iran has found an American journalist guilty of espionage—a crime that can carry the death penalty.
Roxana Saberi, a 31-year-old dual American-Iranian citizen, was arrested in late January and initially accused of working without press credentials. But earlier this month, an Iranian judge leveled a far more serious allegation, charging her with spying for the United States.
The Fargo, North Dakota native had been living in Iran for six years and had worked as a freelance reporter for several news organizations including National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp.
The journalist's Iranian-born father, Reza Saberi, told NPR that his daughter was convicted Wednesday, two days after she appeared before an Iranian court in an unusually swift one-day closed-door trial. The court waited until Saturday to announce its decision to the lawyers, he said.
Saberi's father is in Iran but was not allowed into the courtroom to see his daughter, who he described as "quite depressed." He said she denied the incriminating statements she made when she realized she had been tricked but "apparently in the case they didn't consider her denial."
Saberi's lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, told The Associated Press he would "definitely appeal the verdict."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States was working with Swiss diplomats in Iran to get details about the court's decision and to ensure Saberi's well-being. She said in a statement the United States will "vigorously raise our concerns" with the Iranian government.
The United States has called the charges against Saberi baseless, and the State Department said Thursday that Iran would gain U.S. good will if it "responded in a positive way" to the case.
In effect, Saberi is being held hostage. Obama is being tested.
...Some conservative Iranian lawmakers played down Saberi's conviction, saying the verdict would not affect any ongoing efforts to build trust between the United States and Iran.
"Although there is a wall of mistrust between Iran and the United States, the judicial verdict won't affect possible future talks between the two countries. The verdict is based on evidence," said lawmaker Hosseini Sobhaninia.
Saberi's father disagreed, telling NPR, "I don't think they have any evidence and I haven't heard any evidence that they have made public."
It would be crazy if the U.S. responds positively to Iran given Saberi's conviction.
The Obama administration needs to grow a spine.
This young woman must be released.