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Journalist Roxana Saberi Still Jailed in Iran, on Hunger Strike

By Joan Firstenberg     Apr 25, 2009 in World
An American journalist, jailed in Iran, for alleged espionage activities, has begun a hunger strike, as her family and the U.S. government works to get her released.
There has been talk about releasing U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi. But she remains jailed in Tehran, Iran, charged with spying for the U.S. and now her parents say she is in her fifth day of a hunger strike. She vows not to stop until she is freed.
Saberi, a dual American-Iranian citizen will turn 32 on Sunday. Her friends have set up an email account to send Roxana birthday greetings with happybirthdayroxana@gmail.com
She was convicted in a one-day Iranian trial behind closed doors more than a week ago, and sentenced to eight years in prison. Her father, Reza Saberi tells The Associated Press
"She said that she has started a hunger strike and this is the fifth day and that she will continue until she is free. I tried to tell her that this can be dangerous, but she didn't give me any time to protest,"
The case has become a source of tension between the United States and Iran at a time when the Obama administration has said it wants to engage its longtime adversary. The U.S. has called the accusations against Saberi baseless and is demanding her release.
Saberi's father said her lawyer appealed the court's ruling Saturday — less than a week after Iran's judiciary spokesman said an Iranian appeals court would reconsider her verdict, an indication her sentence could be commuted.
Iran's judiciary chief has ordered a full investigation into the case, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has urged Tehran's chief prosecutor to ensure Saberi be allowed a full defense during her appeal.
Saberi was arrested in late January and at first just accused working without press credentials. But earlier this month, an Iranian judge hit her with the far more serious allegation of espionage.
Saberi was born in the United States and grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, but moved to Iran six years ago and worked as a freelance journalist for organizations including National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp. She received Iranian citizenship because her father was born in Iran.
Saberi's parents are now in Iran, trying to help get her daughter's release. Reza Saberi said he hoped to see his daughter in prison on Monday and was concerned about her health.
"After five days, I am pretty certain that she must be very weak now, because we know she is already frail,"
Iran has released few details about the charges against Saberi, but Iran's Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi said Tuesday that the initial investigation of Saberi was done by an expert on security and counterespionage at the Intelligence Ministry before her case was referred to the court.
An Iranian investigative judge involved in the case also alleged that Saberi was passing classified information to U.S. intelligence services.
The U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution and the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by hard-line Iranian students. The Obama administration has said it is working with Swiss intermediaries who represent U.S. interests in Iran to secure her release.
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