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Iran Charges Iranian-American With Spying

Roxana Saberi
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran's judiciary has charged detained Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi with espionage, a news agency has said, a move likely to disappoint Washington as it tries to reach out to Tehran.

Iran's ISNA news agency, quoting a judge who is the deputy head of Iran's Prosecutor's Office, said Saberi had "accepted" the accusation.

Her lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, told Reuters: "As they have announced, they have accused her of espionage."

Saberi, a 31-year-old Iranian-American freelance journalist born in the United States who has reported for the BBC, NPR, and other media, was arrested in late January for working in the Islamic republic after her press credentials had expired.

Under Iran's penal code, the crime of espionage can carry the death penalty.

"She had been carrying out espionage activities...under the cover of a journalist...and she has accepted the accusations," ISNA quoted Judge Haddad as saying. It only gave his last name.

"She has been charged and a branch of the Revolutionary Court is reviewing her case now," he said, referring to a court which handles security issues.

The United States has been calling for her immediate release.

'Unclenches Its Fist'

Washington cut ties with Tehran almost three decades ago, shortly after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, but the new administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has offered to extend a hand of peace if Iran "unclenches its fist."

Saberi's parents visited her in Tehran's Evin jail on Apirl 6, after arriving from the United States. Lawyer Khorramshahi said she was in good health and mental condition.

Saberi's parents last month appealed to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for their daughter's release, saying she was in a "critical" mental condition.

She grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, and is a dual citizen of the United States and Iran. She has lived in Iran for six years.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week the United States had given a letter to Iranian officials during a meeting in Europe, seeking Iran's help in resolving the cases of Saberi and of two other Americans.

Tehran, which does not recognize dual nationality, denies receiving any such letter.