US journalist jailed in Iran ends hunger strike
TEHRAN, Iran — An American journalist convicted by an Iranian court of spying for the U.S. has ended her hunger strike for health reasons, her father said Wednesday.
Roxana Saberi, a dual Iranian-American national was convicted last month of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison after a one-day trial behind closed doors.
“Roxana called last night to inform me that she has ended her hunger strike,” Reza Saberi told The Associated Press. “I’m relieved that she has done so to avoid a deterioration of her health.”
Iran’s judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi denied on Tuesday that Saberi was ever on a hunger strike or that she was briefly hospitalized on Friday in Evin prison, where she has been held since her arrest in January.
The spokesman said an appeals court will hear the case next week.
Saberi’s father said Roxana began a hunger strike April 21 to protest her imprisonment and had originally vowed to continue the hunger strike until she was freed.
“My wife and I met her in Evin prison Monday morning and gave her some yogurt. We asked her to stop the hunger strike,” he said.
Iran’s judiciary chief has already ordered a full investigation into the case, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called on Tehran’s chief prosecutor to ensure Saberi be allowed a full defense during her appeal.
Signs emerged Tuesday that Iran is making an effort to conduct the appeal more openly than the trial itself, which was only revealed days after the fact, took place behind closed doors and, according to the journalist’s father, lasted only about 15 minutes.
Jamshidi said the appeals court would open the proceedings to experts from the Bar Association. The appeals court verdict will be considered final and judiciary officials have suggested that the eight-year jail term could well be reduced.
The case has been a source of tension between Washington and Iran at a time when the Obama administration has said it wants to engage its longtime adversary. The United States has described the accusations against Saberi, a dual Iranian-American citizen born in New Jersey and raised in Fargo, North Dakota, as baseless and called for her release.
Saberi moved to Iran six years ago and worked as a freelance journalist for news organizations including National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp. She received Iranian citizenship because her father was born in Iran.
Saberi was arrested in late January and initially accused of working without press credentials. But earlier this month, an Iranian judge leveled the far more serious allegation of espionage.
The case has also drawn the concern of press freedom groups.