US journalist Roxana Saberi, held in Iran, gets to meet lawyer

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Monday, March 9, 2009, 17:51
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US-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been held in an Iranian jail for nearly a month, finally got to meet a lawyer, on March 9, 2009.

Photo: Roxana Saberi, US journalist detained in Iran

Photo: Roxana Saberi, US journalist detained in Iran

AFP quoted Abdolsamad Khoramshahi as saying, “I met Ms Saberi yesterday (Sunday) at a revolutionary court. She appeared fine.”

He also said that he couldn’t comment on the accusation again her, and that he would meet her again in a couple of days.

According to reports, Roxana Saberi has been accused by the foreign ministry of indulging in illegal activities, and working even after the Government revoked her press credentials.

According to an Associated Press report, Mr. Qashqavi, the foreign ministry spokesperson, pointed out that Iran had revoked Roxana Saberi’s press credentials in 2006, but he refused to say whether the 31-year-old freelance journalist, who has reported for National Public Radio and other media, was in prison.

Reza Saberi, Roxana’s father has told the American press that his daughter had called from an unknown place in Iran, on February 10, 2009, telling him that she had been arrested for buying a bottle of wine. The person who sold her the wine  reported her to the cops who later arrested her.

Saberi said that Roxana had told him that she had already been held for ten days. She then called back later to say that she would be released in two more days. Neither her family in the US nor her friends in Tehran have heard from her since.

Mr Saberi said that he was going public with the information because of fears for his daughter’s safety.

She had stayed in Iran to complete her master’s degree in Iranian studies and International Relations, and to finish a book on Iranian culture and people.

This is not the first time that an American journalist has gone missing in Iran. In 2007, Iran arrested four Iranian-Americans, including the academic Haleh Esfandiari. They were released after several months of imprisonment and then sent to the US.

The presidential elections in Iran are scheduled for June 2009, during which at least two pro-reform candidates will be running against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In end-February 2009, students at Amirkabir University were arrested and put into the Evin prison. In the wake of such instability in Iran, it makes it tough for the US to find the missing journalist soon.

However the US is putting in efforts to come to Saberi’s rescue. “Our next step is to send a lawyer to the prison and we’ll see what steps they want us to take,” Reza Saberi had told AFP’s Chicago correspondent.

“We want a fair trial. That is what we want. They are accusing her of nothing. We want her to be tried fairly.”

Saberi said that he was counting on the news reports to keep himself aware of her daughter’s situation in Iran. “We have been very anxious and worried because they kept us completely in the dark,” he said.

In the past, Roxana Saberi has taken on subjects that challenges existing mores in the conservative Iran that Mr. Ahmadinejad hopes to continue leading. In 2007, Roxana Saberi produced a radio report for N.P.R. on women being arrested as part of “a new wave of Iran’s nationwide morality crackdown against fashions deemed un-Islamic.”

In 2006, Roxana Saberi had filed a report for the BBC, from Tehran, about the growth of Sufism in the country.

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