05/09/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Roxana Saberi Charged With Spying By Iran

Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been detained in Tehran since January of this year, is now being charged with espionage by the Iranian government. The charges against Saberi have escalated drastically, considering she was originally detained for nothing more than purchasing wine. From the BBC:

Originally she had been accused of the less serious offence of buying a bottle of wine.

The authorities then alleged she had been working as a journalist without a valid press card.

Now the deputy public prosecutor has accused her of the very serious crime of spying. Her lawyer said he had not been allowed to see the papers yet so could not comment on the accusation.

Saberi's parents, who live in North Dakota, went to Iran last week to fight for their daughter's release, the Los Angeles Times reported. At that time, the extent of Saberi's charges were still somewhat of a mystery, but there were suspicions that the situation was more serious than it originally appeared. Those suspicions have now been confirmed. From the LA Times last week:

But the length and nature of her detention suggests she may be facing more serious security charges. A judiciary official said last month that she was arrested because of unspecified "illegal activities" on a warrant issued by Iran's Revolutionary Court, which frequently tries cases of espionage and national security.

Other detainees in similar circumstances have faced grueling interrogations -- aimed at ferreting out their connections to Iranians and the motives for their actions -- but were not subjected to physical abuse.

Responding to news of the new charges, Secretary of State Clinton expressed concern Wednesday for Saberi and called for her prompt release. From Reuters:

"We are deeply concerned by the news we are hearing," Clinton told reporters when asked about reports that Iran had charged Saberi with spying. "We wish for a speedy release and return to her family," she added.


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