Jailed US-Iranian reporter 'very weak'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The father of an Iranian-American journalist jailed by Iran on charges of spying for the United States said today he feared for her life almost a week after she went on hunger strike.

Reza Saberi said he and his wife Akiko visited their daughter Roxana in Tehran's Evin jail yesterday, taking flowers for her 32nd birthday.

"She is very, very weak and frail ... she is in a bad condition. She can hardly stand up," he told Reuters. "I'm worried about her health. I'm worried about her life."

The 68-year-old said he had asked his daughter to stop her action, but she did not want to discuss it during the 20-minute visit. She started refusing food last Tuesday, he said.

The US-born freelance reporter was sentenced to eight years in jail on 18 April, in a verdict that could complicate Washington's efforts towards reconciliation with Iran after three decades of mutual mistrust.

A citizen of both the United States and Iran, Saberi was arrested in late January for working in the Islamic Republic after her press credentials had expired. She was later charged with espionage.

The United States says the charges against Saberi, who has worked for the BBC and the US National Public Radio, are baseless and has demanded her immediate release.

US President Barack Obama has expressed deep concern for Saberi's safety and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said releasing her would serve as a goodwill gesture.

Tehran, which does not recognise dual nationality, says Washington should respect the independence of Iran's judiciary.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said Saberi's case must be dealt with according to the country's laws.

"Her case has got nothing to do with foreign countries," Hassan Qashqavi told a news conference. "When she is an Iranian citizen all arguments raised by foreigners have no meaning," he said in comments translated by Iran's English-language Press TV.

Saberi's defence lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, said on Saturday he had appealed against the eight-year jail sentence.

Khorramshahi expressed hope she would be acquitted after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the prosecutor last week to ensure Saberi enjoys full legal rights to defend herself.

The judiciary chief has said her appeal must be dealt with "in a careful, quick and fair way".

Reza Saberi, who moved to the United States in 1973 and returned to Tehran after his daughter's arrest, said the case might be sent to the appeals court later today.

Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi had agreed to help defend Saberi but prison officials refused to let a member of Ebadi's team see their client yesterday, said an aide of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based media rights group, has called Saberi's conviction "unjust under the Iranian criminal code", saying it was a warning to foreign reporters working in Iran before its presidential election in June.

Amnesty International said she was a "pawn to the ongoing political developments" between Iran and the United States.