- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

TEHRAN (AP) | Iran said Tuesday its national security court put an American journalist on trial behind closed doors on allegations she spied for the U.S. - a charge Washington calls baseless.

The unusually swift one-day trial threatened to anger the U.S. at a time when the Obama administration is showing willingness to engage its longtime adversary after many years of rocky relations.

Roxana Saberi, a 31-year-old dual American-Iranian citizen, was arrested in late January and initially accused of working without press credentials. But an Iranian judge leveled a far more serious allegation against her last week, charging her with spying for the United States.

“Yesterday, the first trial session was held. She presented her final defense,” judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi told reporters. “The court will issue its verdict within the next two to three weeks.”

It was unclear why the trial was moving at such a fast pace - especially because the charges leveled against Ms. Saberi were so serious. Under Iranian law, those convicted of spying normally face up to 10 years in prison.

Ms. Saberi has been living in Iran for the last six years, working as a freelance reporter for news organizations including National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp. Her father has said his daughter, who grew up in Fargo, N.D., was finishing a book on Iran and had planned to return to the United States this year.

Her lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, said he was not authorized to speak to the media about the trial, which he was permitted to attend.

“I will comment only after the verdict is issued,” he told the Associated Press.

Washington has described the charges as “baseless” and has repeatedly called for Ms. Saberi's release. Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States was “deeply concerned” about the espionage charges.

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