Driver distracted by phone, children drown, police say

Journalist Roxana Saberi, shown working in Iran in 2004, is accused of spying in the country.
Five children drowned in a Houston, Texas, bayou Saturday after the car they were riding in veered off the road, police said.

“She has lost weight and she looks frail and weak,” Reza Saberi said. “She says she’s not treated harshly. The food is pretty good and they’re not hurting her. So it’s just the environment of the prison that’s very frustrating.” Saberi, 31, an Iranian-American from North Dakota, was sentenced Saturday to eight years in prison after a one-day trial that was closed to the public. The decision prompted sharp denunciations from political and media officials in the United States and abroad. Saberi’s father said Sunday that her lawyer has 20 days to file an appeal. “Then we will wait for the decision of the next court, the court of appeals, and see what they decide,” Saberi’s father said. “We cannot do anything until they make a decision.” Watch as Saberi’s dad says she was duped ┬╗ Reza Saberi said his daughter is sharing a cell with two other prisoners. The family last saw her Tuesday.

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“We tried to encourage her to take care of herself and just hold on while we’re working for her release,” he said. Saberi has been living in Iran since 2003, said the Committee to Protect Journalists, a journalists’ advocacy group. She has freelanced for National Public Radio and other news organizations, and was writing a book about Iranian culture. Iranian authorities revoked her press credentials in 2006, but Saberi continued to file short news items without permission, the journalists’ group said. Saberi was detained in January, although no formal charges were disclosed. Officials initially said Saberi was held for buying a bottle of wine. The Foreign Ministry later said she was detained for reporting without proper accreditation. On April 9, word emerged that Saberi had been charged with espionage. “Without press credentials and under the name of being a reporter, she was carrying out espionage activities,” Hassan Haddad, a deputy public prosecutor, told the Iranian Students News Agency. Authorities also said Saberi confessed to the charges. Her father said he believes she was coerced into making damaging statements. “Well, they have used the same tactics in the security prison for the political prisoners to make them confess and it sometimes leads to saying things that are not true just in the hope of getting released from the prison,” Reza Saberi said. “Most probably, such tactics were used on our daughter but, again, further investigation is needed.” Reporters wanting to see documents filed in the case were told by the judiciary there was no law permitting them to do so. Saberi’s father said he has not seen the files either. “As far as the evidence, if there is any, it’s not reliable evidence,” he said. “It’s not overwhelming.” In addition to Saberi, another Iranian-American student remains detained in Iran.

Earlier this month, at a conference on Afghanistan in the Netherlands, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a letter to the Iranian delegation asking for information on and the release of Esha Momeni, who was arrested in Iran last October. Clinton also inquired about Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in March 2007.