Iran: Amnesty International Condemns Harsh Sentence for Iranian-American Journalist Roxana Saberi

Press Release
April 20, 2009

Iran: Amnesty International Condemns Harsh Sentence for Iranian-American Journalist Roxana Saberi

Amnesty International Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Amnesty International Condemns Harsh Sentence for Iranian-American Journalist Roxana Saberi

Human Rights Organization Has Issued Urgent Actions Mobilizing Activists Worldwide to Call for Her Release

 

Contact: AIUSA media office, 202-544-0200 x302, lspann@aiusa.org

(Washington) -- Amnesty International condemned the eight-year prison sentence imposed by an Iranian Revolutionary Court on Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi who was convicted of "espionage" following a brief closed door trial in Tehran.

"The charges of espionage against Roxana Saberi lack credibility as the Iranian authorities have not revealed any evidence they might have against her," said Elise Auerbach, Amnesty International USA's Iran country specialist.

Saberi had been arrested on January 31 and held in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison since then. Legal proceedings in Iran's Revolutionary Courts are severely flawed and fail to meet international standards for fair trials. The evidence against Saberi has not been made public.

"Saberi has also, regrettably, become a pawn in the political maneuvering that is unfolding as Iran's relations with the United States and its role in the world community are being reassessed. If the Iranian authorities cannot provide convincing proof that Saberi was actually engaged in espionage, her conviction should be reversed and she should be immediately released from detention," said Auerbach.

Saberi's conviction and sentence further heighten the repression caused by the increasingly severe crackdown on those exercising their rights to peaceful freedom of expression and association in Iran. This comes shortly after the announcement of a six-year prison sentence imposed on women's rights activist Ronak Safarzadeh. The government of Iran has recently imprisoned and persecuted numerous bloggers, journalists, labor activists, students and members of religious minorities.

Amnesty International issued an urgent action on March 16 when Saberi was first detained, mobilizing activists worldwide to send letters to Iranian officials calling on the authorities to release her unless she is to be charged with a recognizable criminal offense. The organization recently issued a second urgent action on Friday, April 17, after news that she had been tried in a closed courtroom.

Background

Several dual-national Iranians have been detained in Iran in recent years since the U.S. Congress announced an extra U.S. $75 million funding for “supporting democracy” in Iran, including Dr Haleh Esfandiari, Kian Tajbakhsh, Parnaz Azima and Ali Shakeri. Most have been accused of acting against national security, particularly with relation to participation in an alleged “soft revolution” in Iran. The United States also holds five Iranian diplomats arrested in Iraq in 2007. In a meeting with the Swiss President on April 19, President Ahmadinejad called for their release. Some commentators have also suggested that Roxana Saberi’s arrest and trial may also be in part due to internal rivalries in the Iranian system in regard to the election of President Obama in the United States and his recent overtures towards Iran.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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For more information, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org