SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
This morning the father of jailed American journalist Roxana Saberi reports that Iran's revolutionary court has sentenced his daughter to eight years in prison for espionage. Ms. Saberi's lawyer was not allowed to ask the court about bail. Roxana Saberi has reported from Iran for NPR, the BBC and other news organizations. She's been jailed at Evin Prison in Iran since January 31st.
We're joined now from Tehran by Roxana Saberi's father, Reza Saberi. Mr. Saberi, thanks so much for making the time to be with us.
Mr. REZA SABERI: You're welcome.
SIMON: Can you tell us what happened in the courtroom?
Mr. SABERI: Well, this morning - the verdict was issued on Wednesday, but since Thursday and Friday, the weekend here, how they - so, we had to go today to the court. The lawyers went there and they brought our daughter to the court with two persons from the intelligence office. I asked to go in - a lawyer asked to see if I could also be present. They didn't allow me to go in.
So, after the verdict was announced to them, the lawyer told me that's what happened. They are sentencing her for eight years imprisonment for one charge of espionage, yeah.
SIMON: Charge of espionage, and do you know anything about the substance of the charges, Mr. Saberi? And I want to say to our audience, we want to be very careful in speaking with you because, of course, you're in Tehran and people listen.
Mr. SABERI: Yes, that's right.
SIMON: And for that matter, they listen to what you say on our air here. That being noted…
Mr. SABERI: (unintelligible) I know.
SIMON: That being noted, do you know anything about the substance of this case?
Mr. SABERI: Substance is that in the beginning they have under pressure, she had made some statements and later when they questioned again, she denied, said that those things that she had said were not right. And, again, when there was a court hearing, Roxana again denied to what (unintelligible). So there was -and it was written in the statement she signed that all those things that she had said before, they were not right. But they apparently, in the case, they didn't consider. They didn't consider what she had - her denial, yeah.
SIMON: This is a difficult question to ask, Mr. Saberi, for all the obvious reasons, but do you have reason to think she was coerced into making statements at any point?
Mr. SABERI: Yes, I have. I have reason and she has herself said that, yeah. (unintelligible) was also deceived. She was deceived to talk - they told her that if she says like this they will free her and then they didn't free her. Later she found out that it was a trick, yeah.
SIMON: And her lawyer was not allowed to ask for bail. Was he permitted to say anything in her defense?
Mr. SABERI: Her lawyer said that her objection should be written down and signed. And that is all he could say. There was not really, like, defense since - in other courts that he happens to know. They wanted just to speak their own words, yeah.
SIMON: And have the Iranian officials made any of the evidence public?
Mr. SABERI: I don't think they have any evidence, and I haven't heard any evidence that can be made public.
SIMON: Forgive me for not knowing, Mr. Saberi. Do you have any legal options? Can you appeal this case?
Mr. SABERI: Yes, we can appeal. And we are going to appeal for this case, yeah.
SIMON: Do you know how your daughter's doing? Have you been able to see her?
Mr. SABERI: She is very weak and frail last time we saw. And she wanted to go on hunger strike but we persuaded her not to do so. And after this most probably she will, even though when we visit her we want to ask her not to do so. But she is quite depressed about this matter, and she wants to go on hunger strike. And if she does, she's so frail, it can be very dangerous to her health.
SIMON: Reza Saberi joining us from Tehran where Iran's revolutionary court has sentenced his daughter, journalist Roxana Saberi, to eight years in prison.
NPR's CEO Vivian Schiller has released this statement: We are deeply distressed by this harsh and unwarranted sentence. Ms. Saberi has already endured a form of confinement in Evin prison, and we are deeply concerned for her well-being. Through her work for NPR over several years we know her as an established and respected professional journalist. We appeal to all of those who share our concerns to ask the Iranian authorities to show compassion and allow her to return home to the United States immediately with her parents.
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