New York, May 5, 2009–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the well-being of convicted Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been treated at Evin Prison’s hospital during a hunger strike to protest her confinement, according to international news reports. A spokesman for the Iranian judiciary said today that a court of appeals will hear Saberi’s case next week, Reuters reported.
Reza Saberi, Roxana’s father, told CNN that she was treated at the prison hospital on Friday and was fed intravenously. He added that she was “weak and frail” when she saw her on Monday.
The law firm headed by Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi agreed to represent Saberi during her appeals process but attorneys from the firm were blocked from meeting with Saberi, which would have allowed her to sign documents that would officially make them part of her legal defense team, on no less than six occasions, according to Ebadi. Iranian law guarantees that anyone accused of a crime has the right to choose their own legal representatives. In addition, all legal proceedings in the case have been held behind closed doors contrary to Article 168 of the Iranian Constitution, which states that “political and press offenses will be tried openly and in the presence of a jury, in courts of justice.”
“We are concerned about the health of Roxana Saberi and call on authorities to ensure that she receives adequate medical care and is held under suitable conditions,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “We are confused by the closed-door legal proceedings, which are contrary to Iranian law. We hope that next week’s hearing at the court of appeals will be conducted in a fair and transparent manner and that Saberi will soon be released.”
Saberi was detained in January after initially being accused of purchasing wine and working as a journalist without proper accreditation. However, a
For the last six years, Saberi has lived in Iran and reported for international news organizations such as National Public Radio, the BBC, and ABC News until her press credentials were revoked in 2006. However, she continued to file short news items with government permission, according to NPR.
On March 9, CPJ delivered a petition singed by more than 10,000 people worldwide in support of Saberi to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.
At least two journalists have died at Evin Prison in the last six years amid circumstances that have not been fully explained, CPJ research shows. In March, Omidreza Mirsayafi, a blogger serving a 30-month sentence on a charge of insulting religious figures, died under unexplained circumstances. Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died in 2003 from injuries sustained from a beating at Evin Prison. She had been imprisoned because she took pictures outside the prison compound.