Ahmadinejad To Iran's Judiciary: Ensure Reporter's Rights
( RFE/RL) - Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has called for a journalist
convicted of espionage to receive fair treatment from the country's judiciary.
Roxana Saberi, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who reported for National Public
Radio, the BBC and Fox News, was found guilty of spying for the United States
in a closed-door trial on April 18 and sentenced to eight years in prison.
Ahmadinejad also called for fair treatment for Hossein Derakhshan, an
Iranian-Canadian blogger, who has been arrested in Iran last November.
In a letter to Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi on April 19, Ahmadinejad
ordered him to "take care that the defendants have all the legal freedoms and
rights to defend themselves against the charges."
Cindy Larson-Casselton, a friend of Saberi's family friend in her home state
North Dakota, said the journalist's parents have filed the appeal to secure her
"I do know that there's an appeals process that can happen and I am certain it
probably will be happening. That's now what we'll be hanging on to in terms of
hope, is that the appeal process will go in Roxana's favor," Larson-Casselton
Likewise, Amy Klobuchar, a U.S. Senator from Minnesota, called the verdict
against Saberi "an injustice" and "a farce," adding that efforts are underway to
bring the jailed reporter home.
"As a former prosecutor I'm just offended that they would have a trial behind
closed doors," Klobuchar said. "No one can see the evidence, no one knows what
really happened here. We need to bring Roxana Saberi home. She should not be
made a pawn in an international game. And so I will continue to push through
whatever means -- diplomacy, public pressure, through the Department of State,
through the UN -- we have to bring her home."
Saberi's parents who are currently in Iran to pursue their daughter's case, have
voiced their concern about her physical and mental state in prison.
Roxana Saberi has reported for the BBC, the US-based National
Public Radio, and Fox News.
U.S. President Barack Obama on April 18 expressed disappointment at the news of
the eight-year prison sentence. Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs said the
president "is deeply disappointed at this news. His thoughts and prayers are
with her and her family."
The 31-year-old journalist has been detained since January in Tehran's Evin
The United States has condemned Saberi's sentence as "baseless" and "without any
foundation." The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said "we will
vigorously raise our concerns to the Iranian government."
Iran's Foreign Ministry said in March that Saberi's press accreditation had been
revoked in 2006 and that she has been working "illegally" since then.
However, Mashaallah Shams-al-Waezin the spokesman for the Iranian Foundation
for Protection of Free Press dismissed that accusation.
"We don't have such a law that says everyone, who is engaged in journalistic
activities has to get permission from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic
Guidance," Shams-al-Waezin said. "It is a separate issue when the Ministry wants
to give a foreign news network permission to operate in Tehran. But in a
freelance correspondent's case only (journalistic) syndicates have the right to
verify their career as a journalist."
RFE/RL's Radio Farda contributed to this report.
Copyright (c) 2009 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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