New York, March 3, 2009–A spokesman for Iran’s judiciary said at a press conference today that freelance U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi is being held at Tehran’s Evin prison, where political prisoners are routinely detained, according to international news reports. Saberi is an American citizen as well as an Iranian national.
Detained in late January, Saberi has not had access to an attorney, and has been incommunicado for over a month. Reuters quoted Alireza Jamshidi as saying that Saberi is being held based on a writ “issued by the revolutionary court.” He added that he did not “know anything about the charges against her.” Iran’s Islamic revolutionary courts are in essence military tribunals presided over by a single judge whose decisions cannot be appealed.
A journalist held in the notorious Evin prison in 2003 died while in custody. Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died after being detained in connection with pictures she had taken during a student protest in Tehran.
“We are appalled that the Iranian government is holding Roxana Saberi without charge,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “We are troubled that the writ for her arrest was issued by a revolutionary court, and we fear that she will be tried by one. They lack even the most elementary guarantees of due process. We call for the Iranian government to explain why Saberi is being held and to give her access to a lawyer or release her immediately.”
Revolutionary courts, in existence since 1979, are intended to try national security, espionage, terrorism, and drug-trafficking cases. Proceedings are usually closed, and defendants are frequently made to appear in court without legal counsel.