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Roxana Saberi′s family and lawyers under strong pressure from Iranian authorities

May 2, 2009

Reporters Without Borders condemns the Iranian government′s attempts to intimidate Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, her family and her lawyers. Sentenced to eight years in prison on a spying charge, Saberi been on hunger strike since 21 April.

"The Iranian authorities are applying a great deal of pressure on Roxana′s parents to get them to deny that their daughter is on hunger strike," Reporters Without Borders said. "We urge the Iranian authorities to stop this intimidation. We also urge them to let her lawyers visit her in Evin prison and to respect her rights."

Reporters Without Borders today began its fifth day of a hunger strike in Paris in solidarity with Saberi. The protests are intensifying and are spreading around the world in the run-up to World Press Freedom Day on 3 May.

"We appeal to Roxana to end her hunger strike," Reporters Without Borders said. "We have already taken over the hunger strike in Paris and we will soon be doing the same in London, New York, Madrid and Brussels. She needs to know that she is not alone."

Saberi′s father, Reza Saberi, was summoned on April 28th to the office of Tehran deputy prosecutor Hassan Zare Dehnavi (better known as Hassan Haddad) because of his statements to the international media that she was on hunger strike and appeared weak from going without food. Dehnavi put a lot of pressure on him to retract these statements.

Saberi′s lawyer, Abdulfatah Soltani, told Reporters Without Borders that he tried in vain to visit her on April 28th to ask her to call off her hunger strike. He explained that the deputy prosecutor refused to let her sign a legal representation contract with the Human Rights Defenders Centre, which is led by Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, a human rights lawyer.

Ebadi herself said : "Under Iranian law, Roxana has the right to be freed on bail pending the appeal, so why isn′t she being freed ?"

Reporters Without Borders continues to call for Saberi release. Such an act of clemency by the Iranian authorities in the run-up to World Press Freedom Day would be seen as a conciliatory gesture, the organisation added.

The Tehran prosecutor general, Ghorbanali Dory Najaf Abadi, said on April 29th : "The journalist could be freed if she were to request a pardon from the Supreme Leader of the Revolution. Otherwise, justice will take its course."

Seven journalists and two bloggers are currently imprisoned in Iran, which was ranked 166th out of 173 countries in the 2008 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

Timeline of Saberi case
- 31 January : Roxana Saberi is arrested.
- 1 March : The US public radio network NPR breaks the news of her arrest (after being alerted by her father on 10 February).
- 2 March : Foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi says Saberi was working "illegally" in Iran.
- 3 March : Judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi says she has been "arrested on the order of the Tehran revolutionary court and is being held in Evin prison."
- 9 April : Saberi is charged with spying by deputy prosecutor Hassan Zare Dehnavi. This charge is often used by the Iranian authorities to arrest journalists and tighten the muzzle on freedom of expression.
- 13 April : Saberi is tried in a closed-door hearing on a charge of spying for the United States.
- 18 April : Saberi is sentenced to eight years in prison.
- 20 April : Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi announces that she will join the Saberi defence team.
- 21 April : Saberi begins her hunger strike.
- 25 April : Her lawyer files an appeal against her conviction.

For more information contact:
Reporters sans frontières
Phone: 33 1 44 83 84 84

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