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Ahmadinejad To Iran's Judiciary: Ensure Reporter's Rights

Roxana Saberi

( 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.

Hossein Derakhshan

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 release.

"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 said.

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."

Roxana Saberi has reported for the BBC, the US-based National Public Radio, and Fox News.
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. 

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 prison. 

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.

... Payvand News - 04/19/09 ... --

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