TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran urged President Barack Obama on Monday not to comment on the case of a U.S. journalist convicted for spying and sentenced to eight years in prison before learning the details.
Iran has released very few facts about Roxana Saberi’s case and initially said she was arrested for working without press credentials. The government later charged the 31-year-old dual American-Iranian citizen with spying for the United States and convicted her in a one-day trial behind closed doors. The court announced the verdict Saturday.
Obama said Sunday he was “gravely concerned” about the safety and well-being of Saberi and was confident she wasn’t involved in espionage, sparking a response from Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi.
“I advise those who studied law not to comment on a case without seeing its context,” Qashqavi told reporters during his weekly press briefing Monday.
Obama studied law at Harvard University and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago before becoming president.
Qashqavi said Saberi’s charges included “gathering information and news in an illegal way.” He said Saberi was treated like any other Iranian citizen during her trial. Iran’s legal system does not recognize dual nationality.
The journalist’s father, Reza Saberi, has said his daughter was not provided a proper defense during her trial. He called the proceedings “a mock trial” during an interview with CNN on Sunday.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday that Saberi should be allowed to offer a full defense during her appeal.
The message was a sign that Iran’s leadership does not want the case to derail moves toward a dialogue with the Obama administration to break a 30-year diplomatic deadlock.