Free Roxana Saberi

April 20, 2009

In a press statement released today, Amnesty International condemned the eight-year 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.

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.

The American born, 31-year-old Saberi is the daughter of an Iranian father and Japanese mother and worked for NPR and other news outlets. An interview on NPR with her father can be found here

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. AIUSA recently issued a second urgent action on Friday, April 17, after news that she had been tried in a closed courtroom.

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.