Reporters Without Borders is extremely relieved to learn that Roxana Saberi, the Iranian-American journalist who is in a Tehran jail on a spying charge, has ended her hunger strike. The press freedom organisation continues to call for the appeal against her conviction to be given a fair hearing and not any sham proceedings.
When Saberi’s parents visited her in Tehran’s Evin prison on 4 May, she agreed to begin eating again at her father’s insistence and took two spoonfuls of yoghurt. Yesterday evening, she confirmed to her parents during a phone call that she had decided to end the hunger strike she began on 21 April.
She also expressed her gratitude for the international campaign of solidarity that has been waged on her behalf.
In accordance with Iranian law, Saberi’s lawyers yesterday filed a request for her release on bail before the judge of the 28th chamber of the Tehran revolutionary court.
“The Iranian authorities should respect Roxana Saberi’s rights by granting her lawyers’ request and releasing her on bail pending the appeal hearing,” Reporters Without Borders said.
Iranian judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi announced yesterday that the appeal would be heard behind closed doors “in the course of next week” with representatives of the prosecutor’s office, the intelligence ministry and lawyers association in attendance.
“This is a travesty of justice,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Leading independent figures should be present at this appeal hearing. We call for Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi of the Human Rights Defenders Centre to be allowed to attend.”
Timeline of Saberi case
31 January: Roxana Saberi is arrested.
1 March: The US public radio network NPR breaks the news of her arrest (after getting a call from her father on 10 February).
2 March: Foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi says Saberi was working “illegally” in Iran.
3 March: Judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi says she has been “arrested on the order of the Tehran revolutionary court and is being held in Evin prison.”
9 April: Saberi is charged with spying by deputy prosecutor Hassan Zare Dehnavi. This charge is often used by the Iranian authorities to arrest journalists and tighten the muzzle on freedom of expression.
13 April: Saberi is tried in a closed-door hearing on a charge of spying for the United States.
18 April: Saberi is sentenced to eight years in prison.
20 April: Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi announces that she will join the Saberi defence team.
21 April: Saberi begins her hunger strike.
25 April: Her lawyer files an appeal against her conviction.
28 April: Reporters Without Borders begins a hunger strike in Paris.
1 May: Saberi is hospitalised for a few hours after ceasing to take liquids.
2 May: Shirin Ebadi voices her support for Saberi and Reporters Without Borders.
3 May: The Reporters Without Borders hunger strike continues outside UN headquarters in New York.
5 May: Saberi confirms that she had decided to end the hunger strike.
5 May: Saberi’s lawyers file a request for her release on bail.