March 2, 2009, Washington, D.C. - PAAIA and the Iranian American community
at large are seriously concerned about the fate of Roxana Saberi, an Iranian
American journalist, who according to recent media reports was arrested in Iran
in late January and is being held at an undisclosed location without any formal
charges having been filed against her.
Saberi, 31, was born in the United States to an Iranian born father and a Japanese born mother. She grew up in North Dakota, where she was a star high school soccer player and pianist. In 1997 she was named Miss North Dakota.
Saberi moved to Iran six years ago, where she had been working as a freelance journalist and finishing a master's degree in Iranian studies and international relations. She had reported from Iran and other countries in the region for National Public Radio (NPR), the BBC, and other news organizations.
Roxana Saberi with former Iranian President Mohammad
Khatami. (photo courtesy of Saberi family)
According to media reports, Saberi told her father in a phone call on February 10th that she had been detained and would be released soon. The family has not heard from her since and does not know where she is being held or what, if anything, she is being charged with. Saberi's arrest and detention were first reported by NPR and other media outlets on Saturday.
According to NPR, Saberi's press credentials were revoked by Iranian authorities more than a year ago but the government had tolerated her continuing to report short news stories out of Iran. The Iranian Foreign Ministry has confirmed Saberi's arrest, alleging that her activities were illegal.
During the past few years, the government of Iran has arrested a number of
Iranian Americans on a variety of security related charges. In 2007, Iran
arrested and later released four Iranian Americans, including Dr. Haleh
Esfandiari, Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson
International Center for Scholars. Most recently, Esha Momeni, an Iranian
American graduate student at California State University, Northridge, was
arrested in October of 2008. She was released on bail in November but has since
been banned from leaving the country.
As an organization that represents the interests of Iranian Americans, PAAIA is extremely concerned about the arrest and detention of Roxana Saberi and the denial of her right to counsel and due process of law. PAAIA seeks to protect Iranian Americans' right to immunity from harassment and unlawful detention when traveling outside the United States, including in Iran. As such, PAAIA calls on the authorities in Iran to safeguard the rights, safety and security of all Iranian Americans traveling to or living in Iran, including Ms. Saberi. We also urge Iranian authorities to disclose Ms. Saberi's whereabouts and the nature of formal charges filed against her, if any, and to ensure her safety and to make every effort to bring this matter to an expeditious resolution.
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