April 18, 2009
Contact:
Dana Davis Rehm, NPR


   

FATHER OF ROXANA SABERI TELLS NPR NEWS HE WILL APPEAL HIS DAUGHTER'S CONVICTION ON CHARGES OF ESPIONAGE, EXPRESSES CONCERNS ABOUT ROXANA'S PHYSICAL CONDITION


FULL INTERVIEW WITH REZA SABERI AIRING ON NPR NEWS' WEEKEND EDITION


TRANSCRIPT BELOW AND MORE INFORMATION at www.NPR.org


Separately, NPR Presses for Saberi's Immediate Release, Statement Below




April 18, 2009; Washington, D.C. - In an interview this morning on NPR News' Weekend Edition, Reza Saberi, the father of jailed Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, said that Iran's Revolutionary Court has sentenced his daughter to 8 years in prison for espionage, which he plans to appeal. Ms. Saberi and her attorney were afforded no opportunity to review the evidence against her or to mount a defense, and her lawyer was not permitted to ask the court about bail.

The complete interview with Mr. Saberi is airing this morning on NPR News' Weekend Edition; a full transcript is below and the audio is available at: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103246102

Speaking to NPR host Scott Simon, Mr. Saberi, who said he was not permitted to enter the courtroom, described the substance of the charges against his daughter: "In the beginning….under pressure, she had made some statements. And later, when they questioned again, she denied, said that those things that she had said were not right. …She signed that all those things that she had said before, they were not right. But they apparently, in the case, they didn't consider…..her denial."

Mr. Saberi also expressed concerns over his daughter's physical state, telling NPR: "She is very weak and frail, last time we saw. And she wanted to go on hunger strike, but we persuaded her not to do so. And after this, most probably she will, even though, when we visit her, we want to ask her not to do so. But she is quite depressed about this matter, and she wants to go on hunger strike. And if she does, she's so frail, it can be very dangerous to her health."

For analysis on this story, in a separate interview NPR spoke with Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Robert Mahoney, Deputy Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Sadjadpour tells NPR: "So these charges against her are certainly baseless, and I think even the regime itself doesn't believe the charges leveled against her. But unfortunately I think she's caught up in this broader contentious relationship between the United States and Iran. And whereas, the Obama administration has reached a consensus that it's time to engage Iran to try to forge a new relationship with Tehran, I think within Tehran they're very conflicted. …And over the last 30 years we've seen that, whenever there is hope of confidence building or talks or improvement to the relationship, they do something to try to torpedo or sabotage this dialogue. And I would put Roxana's case unfortunately in that context."

The 31-year old journalist has reported from Iran for NPR, the BBC, ABC, FOX and other news organizations. She has been jailed at Evin Prison in Iran since January 31st.

Separately, NPR President & CEO Vivian Schiller issued the following statement this morning, pressing for the immediate release of Roxana Saberi: "We are deeply distressed by this harsh and unwarranted sentence. Ms. Saberi has already endured a three month confinement in Evin Prison, and we are very concerned for her well-being. Through her work for NPR over several years, we know her as an established and respected professional journalist. We appeal to all of those who share our concerns to ask that the Iranian authorities show compassion and allow her to return home to the United States immediately with her parents."

A full transcript of the interview with Mr. Saberi is below; all excerpts must be credited to NPR's Weekend Edition. Television usage must include NPR logo and on-screen chyron to NPR News. The full audio of the interview is posted at: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103246102


NPR Media Relations:
Dana Davis Rehm 202.513.2747 / 202.680.9541 / ddrehm@npr.org
Anna Christopher 202.513.2304 / 202.680.3848 / achristopher@npr.org

SCOTT SIMON: I'm Scott Simon. This morning the father of jailed American journalist Roxana Saberi reports that Iran's Revolutionary Court has sentenced his daughter to 8 years in prison for espionage. Ms. Saberi's lawyer was not allowed to ask the court about bail. Roxana Saberi has reported from Iran for NPR, the BBC and other news organizations. She's been jailed at Evin prison in Iran since January 31. We're joined now from Tehran from Roxana's Saberi's father, Reza Saberi. Mr. Saberi thanks so much for making the time to be with us.

REZA SABERI: You're welcome.

MR. SIMON: Can you tell us what happened in the court room?

MR. SABERI: Well this morning, the verdict was issued on Wednesday, but since Thursday and Friday are the weekend here, all day, so we had to go today to the court. The lawyers went there and they brought our daughter to the court with two persons from the intelligence office, I asked to go in, the lawyer asked to see if I could also be present. They did not allow me to go in. So after this, the verdict was announced to them, the lawyer told me what happened, yes. They are sentencing her to 8 years imprisonment on charge of espionage, yes.

MR. SIMON: Charge of espionage. Do you know anything about the substance of the charges, Mr. Saberi? And I want to say to our audience, we want to be very careful in speaking with you, because of course you're in Tehran, and people listen, and for that matter, they listen to what you say on our air here.

MR. SABERI: They are listening, I know.

MR. SIMON: That being noted, do you know anything about the substance of this case?

MR. SABERI: Substance is that in the beginning they have, under pressure, she had made some statements. And later, when they questioned again, she denied, said that those things that she had said were not right. And again, when there was a court hearing, Roxana again denied what was on there. And it was written in the statement - she signed that all those things that she had said before, they were not right. But they apparently, in the case, they didn't consider, they did not consider what she had, her denial, yes.

MR. SIMON: This is a difficult question to ask, Mr. Saberi, for all the obvious reasons, but do you have reason to think she was coerced into making statements at any point.

MR. SABERI: Yes I have, I have reason, and she has herself said that, yes. Not only coerced, but also deceived. She was deceived, they told her that, if she said like this, they would free her. and then they didn't free her. later she found out that it was a trick, yes.

MR. SIMON: And her lawyer was not allowed to ask for bail. Was he permitted to say anything in her defense?

MR. SABERI: Her lawyer said that her objection should be turned down, and signed. And that is all he could say. There was not really like defense like in other courts. They wanted just to speak their own words.

MR. SIMON: Have Iranian officials made any of the evidence public?

MR. SABERI: I don't think they have any evidence, and I haven't heard any evidence that can be made public.

MR. SIMON: Forgive me for not knowing, Mr. Saberi, do you have any legal options, can you appeal this case?

MR. SABERI: Yes, yes we can appeal, and we are going to appeal for this case.

MR. SIMON: Do you know how your daughter is doing, have you been able to see her?

MR. SABERI: She is very weak and frail, last time we saw. And she wanted to go on hunger strike, but we persuaded her not to do so. And after this, most probably she will, even though, when we visit her, we want to ask her not to do so. But she is quite depressed about this mater, and she wants to go on hunger strike. And if she does, she's so frail, it can be very dangerous to her health.

MR. SIMON: Reza Saberi joining us from Tehran, where Iran's Revolutionary Court has sentenced his daughter, journalist Roxana Saberi, to 8 years in prison. NPR's CEO Vivian Schiller has released this statement: "We are deeply distressed by this harsh and unwarranted sentence. Ms. Saberi has already endured a three month confinement in Evin Prison, and we are very concerned for her well-being. Through her work for NPR over several years, we know her as an established and respected professional journalist. We appeal to all of those who share our concerns to ask that the Iranian authorities show compassion and allow her to return home to the Untied States immediately."

MR. SABERI: Thank you very much.